Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ken Askew, Former White House Speechwriter, Recommends The Bottomless Bottle of Beer

At last appears a review of my book on the Amazon site, and I couldn't ask for a more positive recommendation:
Horace Jeffrey Hodges is the Umberto Eco of beer novels. And a whole lot funnier. He's also a terrific storyteller, not to mention a teacher. I learned something on every page and enjoyed every lesson. Highly recommended.
Short but sweet, though my name should read "Horace Jeffery Hodges," but I certainly won't quibble. Full disclosure, however: The reviewer, Ken Askew, is an old friend who goes all the way back to my Baylor days. But I believe he wouldn't have praised my novella if he didn't mean it.

Ken, by the way, is himself an excellent writer with a stellar career in speechwriting and has published a long, very funny article on his experiences as a speechwriter, "Confessions of a Wounded Speechwriter," of which the most humorous anecdote concerned a whistle-stop tour by the elder Bush during the 1992 re-election campaign:
[I]f I never write another successful speech, Bush [at least] provided me with the high point of my career.

It happened during the desperate last days of perhaps the worst-run presidential re-election campaign in recent history, when some genius in our camp decided Bush should embark on a whistle-stop tour through the heartland. The team rounded up a train, gussied it with bunting and POTUS (President of The United States) was off and running, sort of.

The trick to campaign speeches is to string a couple dozen policy ideas together, each pearl a standalone point so the press gets to choose its bits. It helps to punch each pearl with a one-line zinger.

One idea before us this particular day was the long-standing Democratic control of Congress -- 38 years. In a moment of giddy fatigue, I threw out the line, "Thirty-eight years? That's 266 dog years!" It was so lame we put it in triple brackets to flag it for the president's review and moved on to the next idea. What I failed to understand was the president's fascination with dogs. Dogs are completely wonderful, according to Bush. He loved the line.

He used it at 8 a.m. to a crowd of half-asleep supporters at the first whistle-stop. It met with confused silence. What did the leader of the free world just say? Something about Congress and dog years?

On the way to the next scheduled stop, the president retired to the back of the train with his #2 pencil and wrote furiously.

Next stop, he tried the joke again. Again, confused silence. A sprinkling of polite titters. Back in the train, he barked out requests for more facts and figures. Next stop, lo and behold, the same dog-year joke, the same response. But this time, a paragraph later, POTUS describes the Pentagon budget in dollars, multiplies it by seven and calls it dog-dollars. The crowd begins to catch on.

You get the picture. By day's end the speech was crammed with facts and figures, each multiplied by seven. Dog-years. Dog-dollars. Dog-this. Dog-that. And as the train pulled out of the last station at dusk, the crowd was actually chanting, "Twenty-eight more years! Twenty-eight more years!"

Parturientes montes murem ridiculosum pepererunt: The mountains went into labor and there emerged a ridiculous mouse. It was my finest seven hours.

Until the next morning, when The New York Times, front page below the fold, suggested perhaps the leader of the free world had lost his mind. Time to rewrite.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ken Askew, humorist and gentleman . . .

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At 12:14 AM, Blogger Terrance Lindall said...

Really funny stuff!

At 12:15 AM, Blogger Terrance Lindall said...

Really funny material!

At 3:07 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You have my doubled agreement!

Jeffery Hodges

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