Christopher Buckley has some guts. Florence of Arabia seems tailor made to piss off all sorts of people: Muslims, Arabs, politically correct people, women’s rights advocates, etc. etc. Let me back up. Florence of Arabia is a political comedy about one woman’s attempt to “become the godmother of the Arab women’s movement.” And, of course, things go to hell from there.
Florence Farfaletti gets a call late one night from a friend who has run away from her husband. The problem is that this friend and her husband come from the fictional country of Wasabi that practices all the worst stereotypes of Islam. After her friend comes to a bad end, Florence hatches a plot to broadcast comedies and talk shows that poke fun at this imaginary country and its version of Islam. Strangely enough, she has some serious baking from a gentleman who won’t say who he works for. Things go to hell when the Wasabis arrange a coup in the country where Florence has set up shop. Rather than slowly encouraging women to stand up for themselves, things get much worse for them. After some very tense days, Florence and her partners manage to get international opinion on their side and things (sort of) resolve themselves. At the end of the book, it’s a no win game.
You have to have a strong sense of humor to find this book funny. It’s amusing enough if you don’t think too carefully about what they’re making fun of. It’s almost Swiftian in that, you can sort of see the point from this side of the socially acceptable line. Buckley has some gumption to have written it. But then, what could I expect from the guy who wrote Thank You For Smoking?