Lydia Millet, George Bush, Dark Prince of Love (Scribner’s, 2000)
[originally posted 4Apr2001]
The idea of anyone finding a president sexy—at least, any president we’ve had since, oh, Teddy Roosevelt or so—strikes the same kind of nerve with me as does the idea of having weird leechlike creatures infest peoples’ bodies and turn them into mutant zombies (see? there’s Night of the Creeps again!). The idea that someone could take such a feeling to the obsessive heights of the stalker is right up there with having dinner at Alf Packer’s house. And that’s exactly what Lydia Millet gives us in her second novel, George Bush, Dark Prince of Love. It’s sick, it’s twisted, and every once in a while it’s extremely funny.
There’s always a rather nasty outsider’s-perspective criticism (Millet comes originally from Toronto, though she now lives in Arizona) rumbling just beneath the surface, rather like the ground as her three-hundred-pound plus protagonist, an ex-con named Rosemary (we’re never told her last name), goes by. Rosemary is a real peach, the kind of person you never want to be on the wrong side of—after all, she may decide to wire your office with plastique. Through a rather odd coincidence, Rosemary finds herself feeling as if she has a spiritual connection with George Bush, and we see the four years of G.B.’s presidency through the decidedly jaundiced eyes of Rosemary as she alternately deals with her life as is and tries to get herself into positions where she might manage to usurp Barbara’s place in the estimations of the man of her dreams.
Thought the book weighs in at a rather slim 159 pages, it still feels like it goes a tad long. There are some sections about halfway through that bog down. But then, one could argue, that’s exactly how Bush’s presidency went. Amen. So I’m willing to give Ms. Millet the benefit of the doubt, at least enough to go searching for her first novel, Omnivores. Work this twisted deserves an audience. ** ½