Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Terry Fallis,
    The Best Laid Plans,2007.
    The High Road, 2010.

Fallis’s two comic novels follow Daniel Addison and erstwhile professor of English who can’t quite escape his life as a former political aide. At the beginning of The Best Laid Plans, we meet Addison: tired of the cynicism of professional politics (and escaping the ruins of a tarnished relationship), Addison leaves the Liberal party’s Leader’s office to work at the University of Ottawa. Determined to make a clean break, his final act for the party will be to find a candidate and run the campaign for the constituency of Cumberland-Prescott: a riding that’s never varied from its deep-blue Conservative tendencies. As Addison finds an apartment to rent in the yard of the hovercraft-building, chess-loving, English-grammar-excessively-pedantic Engineering professor named Angus McLintock, he also makes a deal: Addison will teach English to Engineers, and McLintock will run for the Liberals (with no lawn signs, campaigning, etc.) against the widely loved Conservative finance minister. Hilarity ensues, both within and without the corridors of power, and the second book continues the adventures of Addison and McLintock.

They’re both funny books. High-minded and idealistic about the capacity of politicians to work for the betterment of the nation, there are clunky moments and widely unbelievable plot points (the set piece with the hovercraft and the drunken First Lady of the United States!). I’m certain that Angus would find much more meaningful censure at the hand of the leader of his party than he experiences, in both books, despite his supposed popularity. There’s an overuse of fart jokes. And yet, for all of my quibbles, the quips and set pieces are funny. One can easily see why The Best Laid Plans won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 2008. The idealism is reminiscent of The West Wing, and the lasting and exciting myth of politicians who are themselves idealistic is captivating and hopeful.

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