This isn’t going to be very serious. After all, it involves Dave Barry, one of my all-time favorite comic writers, so there’s nothing to provoke a frown in the paragraphs ahead. Nor is there anywhere through Barry’s new novel, “Lunatics,” written with yet another comedy writer, Alan Zweibel. I have no idea how two people go about writing one novel, but given the loose-limbed, anything-goes, over-the-top form of this one, I’m willing to guess that alcohol had something to do with it.
Barry, of course, is the long-time Miami newspaper columnist whose humor has always resonated with me. That is, he writes lines so funny I have found myself spitting out the Coke I was drinking. Zweibel was one of the original Saturday Night Live writers and has won the Thurber Prize for American Humor. A funny guy, too.
“Lunatics,” which I read over a weekend — it is not a challenging read — is an outrageous spoof of contemporary politics and diplomacy cleverly disguised as a picaresque adventure of two bumbling men. Philip Horkman is the genteel, happy owner of a pet store called “The Wine Shop,” and you may immediately sense some of the lunacy at work in these pages. Jeffrey Peckerman is a pompous jerk, a forensic plumber no less, whose path is fated to cross that of Horkman on a ten-year-old girls’ soccer field.
From such an innocent beginning, we are treated to a round-the-world odyssey of alleged terrorism that keeps getting more and more unbelievable — and unbelievably funny (if sometimes a tad vulgar and sophomoric). Everyone and everything gets parodied, from nuns and Jews to Arab terrorists, Fidel Castro, the continent of Africa and everyone in the People’s Republic of China. I’m not giving away anything to tell you that the books’s finale includes surprise appearances by Horkman and Peckerman at the nominating conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. And yes, Donald Trump figures in it as well.
Any rational person would of course be asking at this point, “How can that possibly be?” And the answer is that no rational person would ever get that far into this novel. Only the slightly wiggy, I suspect, will follow Horkman and Peckerman to the end. But they — like me, I hope — will have found the journey a much-needed break from the partisan, demeaning, half-true conversations that pass for political party discourse in the real world these days.