Saturday, June 30, 2007

Allen Drury, Advise and Consent

To advise and consent (or not) to various acts and appointments of the president is one of the constitutional duties of the US Senate; it's also the name of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Allen Drury, of 1959. It focuses on a hard-fought battle to confirm the appointment of a new Secretary of State (foreign minister) in an atmosphere of looming world conflict between the US and the USSR.

It's not quite certain what year this story is supposed to take place, but it's not 1959: perhaps a speculative 1967? No postwar presidents are named, and the entirely unnamed incumbent can't be any of them. The key fact, which emerges only slowly, is that the race to the Moon is almost over, and both superpowers are in a position to launch manned ships -- and they do. Drury started writing this book in 1957, the year of Sputnik, and reflects a pessimistic mood about free societies losing out to communism.

The real identity of the president is not a big mystery to anyone who read Drury's A Senate Journal. He's a figure who takes in all the most important characterstics of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as seen by Drury: a man of vast personal presence and strong character, the "great seducer," a man who has done so much good and so much bad that his contemporaries will never be able to come to a rounded judgment about him. Drury, a half-century after he wrote, has succeeded in piquing my interest in FDR. Whether I'll ever have the time to follow it up, I don't know. Any suggestions on further reading are welcome.

Labels: , , , , , , ,