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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Taft 2012 by Jason Heller

A little book about a big man (Would you like a little sci-fi with your politics?)

Published by Quirk Books in January of 2012.
248 pages.

Okay, let's get the ridiculous part of  the book out of the way. Yes, Taft 2012 is based entirely on a silly premise: What if William Howard Taft disappeared from history the day Wilson was inaugurated and arrived in the year 2011 and fired up everyone's imagination to run for president again in 2012? But, setting that aside, what if Taft were alive and well today? What would he think of the United States 100 years after it rejected him for his re-election bid?

If you love The Twilight Zone or those Harry Turtledove time-traveling books and you are interested in politics, this one will satisfy.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930)
I liked the book because I liked Heller's characterization of William Howard Taft. It's not hard for this overweight reviewer to sympathize with our fattest president (he got stuck in the presidential bathtub, a fact that embarrasses Heller's interpretation of Taft to no end - he cannot believe that people still remember that about him) who eats when he's under stress. But, Heller makes him understandable, likeable and gets us to sympathize with him. Taft's wonder at modern gadgets is short-lived (although his attempts to use Twitter are funny) but his amazement at the changes in American society such as the clothing,  relations betweens the sexes and the freer interaction among the races continue to throw him throughout the book. At times, Taft is a man adrift, at times he is a man who knows he has been given an extraordinary second chance.

As a groundswell builds for a "draft Taft" to run for president in 2012, Heller introduces the political world and political issues of 2012. His portrayal is a bit simplistic but this is a short book. Taft becomes a single-issue candidate and the issue is not very well explained (giant corporate food interests) except that Taft gets an upset stomach when he eats too much processed food. It's almost as though Heller assumes that everyone is already sold on the issue and they will just go along with him so he makes very little effort to explain except for one creepy scene in a restaurant.

But, this is still an enjoyable book and I am pleased that I started out the New Year by meeting and sharing and adventure with Mr. Taft.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Taft 2012: A Novel

Reviewed on January 3, 2012.

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