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What we're reading: Crackerjack politically incorrect political comedy, a love letter to Australia and more.

By Salon Staff
September 20, 2000 1:53AM (UTC)
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Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen
What's great about this book is that it's that magical combination of A) a book about politics that's B) actually funny. It's set in the swampy world of Florida politics, and the hero is an ecoterrorist who dognaps the pet Labrador of one of the state's top lobbyists, a sloppy cur who hunts Africa's big game in illegal hunting parks in Florida. There's not a shred of the politicaly correct about the book; it's dark satire where the funniest running gag involves the systematic dismemberment of a dead dog. So when I took a peek at the dust jacket, I was shocked to see that it bills itself as "brilliantly twisted entertainment wrapped around a powerful ecological plea." But I suppose it is. Right now, in the middle of a campaign where earnest sentiments are about as visible as a subliminal "flash" message, it takes a beat to recognize any sort of "powerful plea" that isn't in oversize bold type and accompanied by some bland Top 40 soundtrack.

-- Kerry Lauerman

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In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
I'm reading for background during my trip to Australia to cover the Olympics. It's a lighter book than Robert Hughes' "The Fatal Shore," but Bryson is a great companion to wander about with. He's a witty bon vivant, a raconteur and all-around good guy. The goodwill of his personality is infectious, too. While this is hardly the last word on contemporary Australia -- there's a slight quality of shtick to it and sometimes it feels like a series of magazine stories that's too much of a paean -- it's a rollicking good read. Bryson does deal with some of the dark stuff in Australian history, such as the way they'll change the subject when the Aborigines come up (not that any American could stand in judgment of them on that), but you won't find mordant critical observations here as you do with Hughes. It's a total love letter.

-- Gary Kamiya

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