He blogs regularly at http://bobparksjohnson.blogspot.com. Check him out!
Here’s Bob’s review of The Global War on Morris by Steve Israel:
Morris Feldstein is a schlub. He is the kind of person who doesn’t really live life, he just sort of lets it happen around him. Morris’ motto is “Don’t make waves.” And he doesn’t. His days are spent driving from one Long Island medical office to the next, writing orders, and leaving samples for his employer, Celfex Pharmaceutical Laboratories. His evenings are spent eating take-out in silence with his wife, Rona. He drifts to sleep in the loving arms of his RoyalLounger 8000, writhing fitfully as his Mets find yet another way to lose.
Morris? He’s a nothing. No runs, no hits, no errors. An anonymous, suburban every-mensch. And according to twenty-seven separate law-enforcement agencies, the world’s largest surveillance database, and the Vice-President of the United States, Morris is also a native enemy noncombatant in the War on Terror.
Steve Israel, (who, when he is not writing political satire, serves as the Congressman from New York’s Third Congressional District,) uses short, fast moving chapters to introduce characters and threads of plot that twist together to form the rope that ultimately snares an innocent man in a nightmare worthy of Kafka. Along with Rona, Morris’ politically conscious wife, we meet their daughter Caryn, an aspiring documentary film-maker. There is Hassan, towel boy at the Paradise Hotel and Residences at Boca. Victoria, the pretty blonde receptionist, whose friendly smile and recent divorce make her too tempting for the weary salesman to resist. Too-Good-To-Be-True Ricardo whose suave manner and cold-blooded crimes make him the villainous instigator of Morris’ downfall. And then there are the agents: men with encyclopedic titles working in the nooks and crannies of a security-mad, post 9/11 bureaucracy that is such a labyrinth of overlapping functions that no one seems able to keep all the acronyms straight.
Along the way, we also meet the major players of the period, true believers, all. Dick Chaney sneers in his dark, West Wing office. Karl Rove plots and calculates. The President carefully repeats and rehearses catch phrases and talking points taught to him by his coaches and handlers. Israel’s portrait of the masterminds of the War on Terror is hardly a sympathetic one, but he acknowledges that a deep sense of patriotism lies at the heart of even their most cynical political machinations. They are consumed with fear and wounded pride, and a ravenous desire to catch anything that even looks like a terrorist.
And then there is NICK: the Network Centric Total Information Collection, Integration, Synthesis, Assessment, Dissemination, and Deployment System. NICK is Big Brother, the All-Hearing-Ear where every phone call, email, Google search, and credit card swipe is collected, observed, analyzed, and assigned a threat level. NICK’s job is make connections. He is designed to find danger. He doesn’t believe in coincidence. Late in the summer of 2004, just as the presidential election campaign is kicking into high gear, NICK smells something fishy about a credit card charge in a restaurant in Great Neck, Long Island. From that moment on, Morris’ goose begins to slowly cook.
On its surface, The Global War on Morris is a satirical comedy of errors, but Israel’s comedy has teeth. I laughed out loud more than once as I read, but there were also moments of horror that caught me up short with the thought: “My god, this could actually happen.”
Morris and Rona live on take-out: Kung Pao chicken, a nice pastrami platter, chicken parmesan. The host who prefers not to load up the table with white cardboard containers and Styrofoam clamshells might want to go with something a little less eclectic. I suggest a buffet featuring potato knish, some nice lean brisket, and falafel. To drink, just a little glass of wine for the imbibers and some seltzer with a wedge of lime for the teetotalers. For desert? What else? A sliver (or a hunk) of New York Cheesecake from Juniors.
Rona is an old hippie and her daughter seems destined to become a new one. The music of the ‘Sixties could set the mood perfectly. You might just put your old vinyl soundtrack from Woodstock on the turntable and let it spin, but I’d throw Dylan’s Highway 61 and Bringin’ it All Back Home on the stack as well.
UPDATE FROM daeandwrite: The Global War on Morris is being developed as a cable series by none other than Rob Reiner. http://deadline.com/2015/02/rob-reiner-andrew-lenchewski-global-war-on-morris-steve-israel-comedy-series-1201369535/