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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling author who made mincemeat of political correctness in Thank You for Smoking, conspiracy theories in Little Green Men, and presidential indiscretions No Way to Treat a First Lady now takes on the hottest topic in the entire world, Arab-American relations, in a blistering comic novel sure to offend the few it doesn't delight.

Appalled by the punishment of her rebellious friend Nazrah, youngest and most petulant wife of Prince Bawad of Wasabia, Florence Farfarletti decides to draw a line in the sand. As Deputy to the deputy assistant secretary for Near East Affairs, Florence invents a far-reaching, wide-ranging plan for female emancipation in that part of the world.

The U.S. government, of course, tells her to forget it. Publicly, that is. Privately, she's enlisted in a top-secret mission to impose equal rights for the sexes on the small emirate of Matar (pronounced "Mutter"), the "Switzerland of the Persian Gulf". Her crack team: a CIA killer, a snappy PR man, and a brilliant but frustrated gay bureaucrat. Her weapon: TV shows.

The lineup on TV Matar includes A Thousand and One Mornings, a daytime talk show that features self-defense tips to be used against boyfriends during Ramadan; an addictive soap opera featuring strangely familiar members of the Matar royal family; and a sitcom about an inept but ruthless squad of religious police, pitched as "Friends from Hell."

The result: the first deadly car bombs in the country since 1936, a fatwa against the station's entire staff, a struggle for control of the kingdom, and, of course, interference from the French. And that's only the beginning.

A merciless dismantling of both American ineptitude and Arabic intolerance, Florence of Arabia is Christopher Buckley's funniest and most serious novel yet, a biting satire of how U.S. good intentions can cause the Shiite to hit the fan.

Don't miss Christopher Buckley, Steve Martin, and other humorists discussing their craft at the New Yorker Festival.
©2004 Christopher Buckley (P)2004 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Delightfully clever." (The New York Times)

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I’ve read it before but...

I absolutely love this novel. I’ve read it before twice but I wanted to listen to it while I went around the house and got stuff done. Well, I got tons of stuff done and finished it in less than a day - I was so enraptured with the story yet again (as well as by the excellent reading from Patricia Kalember), the hours flew by until, sadly, the story was over. The mark of s great book is that, while you felt it ended well, you still didn’t want it to end.
I didn’t know much about Islam before I read this (besides what I’d learned in comparative religions) and I was surprised to learn upon further research that, besides the fictitious countries of Wasabi and Matar and their history, most of the finer points were true. Women are systematically repressed and discriminated against in the most brutal ways in the Middle East and, while America can do much about it, the flow of oil prevents it.
I don’t know why this isn’t required reading alongside Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”. It’s a great satire with fun/dynamic characters, along with action, romance, intrigue, politics, humor, and drama. Most all of Christopher Buckley’s novels are this way and I’ll be a fan of his work until the day I leave this Earth. He is one of my literary rockstar heroes and I would give an awful lot to meet him and pick his brain about his process.