Novel Ideas

"Nigger" is the word upon which Bill Kauffman balances and dances his first novel, Every Man a King. It is, to say the very least, a difficult word. It is a word denied to white lips in polite society, and is now heard only coming with any frequency from trash-mouthed blacks.

The saying of the forbidden word on a television show by Kauffman's central character requires his banishment from Washington and precludes any political future. How easy it is to become a nonperson in the United States.

Every Man a King is satire. In the first third or so of the book the victims belong to the new Conservative Coalition. The hero (like Kauffman) is a populist agrarian conservative with little patience for New York parochials. I do not know what someone who does not share this viewpoint would make of it:

In vain might the curious visitor [to the think tank where the central character works] search for evidence of the Mugwump conservatism of Henry Adams, the gallant localist conservatism of Jefferson Davis, the rumbustious anarchist conservatism of John Dos Passos, or any of a thousand brilliant and singular mutations. The American Foundation, its patrons and clients (including the scurrying ants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) in lockstep, held to a peculiar and astringent doctrine admixing unstinting loyalty to big business with a perfervid enthusiasm for all things military. The resulting...

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