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Banana Republican: From the Buchanan File

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Depicted as braggart, brute, and bore in The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan has gotten a bad rap and means to correct the record. That weak-kneed, simpering cousin of his wife’s, with his prattling about some lost idealized American individualism and rectitude, was not only a fool and a liar, but worse: a failed bond salesman. Pathetic. But by 1924 Tom has bigger problems than the pathos of the summer of ’22. First, there’s Aunt Gertrude, who has assumed control of the Buchanan fortune. Second, what with Daisy ...

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Overview

Depicted as braggart, brute, and bore in The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan has gotten a bad rap and means to correct the record. That weak-kneed, simpering cousin of his wife’s, with his prattling about some lost idealized American individualism and rectitude, was not only a fool and a liar, but worse: a failed bond salesman. Pathetic. But by 1924 Tom has bigger problems than the pathos of the summer of ’22. First, there’s Aunt Gertrude, who has assumed control of the Buchanan fortune. Second, what with Daisy getting jowly and the maids indiscreet, there’s little tranquillity at home. Third, a revolution is brewing in Nicaragua that’s threatening to ensnare the family investments. So when Tom is dispatched to maneuver among Nicaragua’s international corporate intrigues, machine-gun-toting rival political parties, and competing American intelligence agencies, he spies his chance.

A rollicking, outrageous, and altogether brilliant perversion of known facts, Banana Republican sends the sexist, racist, elitist Buchanan careening through America’s brilliantly mismanaged intervention in Nicaragua in the early twentieth century. Eric Rauchway bends history to Buchanan’s memoir as Tom blunders, shoots, and screws his way through the historical record and makes the case that greed and amorality have always been at the heart of the American dream.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his unfortunate fiction debut, historian Rauchway (Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America) imagines that Tom Buchanan, Daisy's loutish, unpleasant husband from The Great Gatsby, has written a memoir. For 30 pages, this is inspired: the famous lantern at the end of the dock dangles “like a broken wine bottle in a drunk's loose grip,” Daisy has grown pudgy, and the passage of time has tempered Tom's inherent unpleasantness with rueful humor. But then, in a bewildering shift, Tom decamps to Central America and becomes a key player in the United States' official and unofficial interventions in Nicaragua's turbulent politics circa 1925-1927. Tom goes everywhere and meets everyone (in the span of 20 pages, he runs guns for the rebels and goes on missions for the State Department's Bureau of Secret Intelligence) with an increasing sense of tedium and implausibility. As he seeks to protect family business interests, his conservative stances and racist attitudes become a one-note joke that quickly sours. Given the cleverness of the first two chapters, the unrelenting dreadfulness of the remainder of the book is bewildering. (July)
Publishers Weekly
In his unfortunate fiction debut, historian Rauchway (Blessed Among Nations: How the World Made America) imagines that Tom Buchanan, Daisy's loutish, unpleasant husband from The Great Gatsby, has written a memoir. For 30 pages, this is inspired: the famous lantern at the end of the dock dangles “like a broken wine bottle in a drunk's loose grip,” Daisy has grown pudgy, and the passage of time has tempered Tom's inherent unpleasantness with rueful humor. But then, in a bewildering shift, Tom decamps to Central America and becomes a key player in the United States' official and unofficial interventions in Nicaragua's turbulent politics circa 1925–1927. Tom goes everywhere and meets everyone (in the span of 20 pages, he runs guns for the rebels and goes on missions for the State Department's Bureau of Secret Intelligence) with an increasing sense of tedium and implausibility. As he seeks to protect family business interests, his conservative stances and racist attitudes become a one-note joke that quickly sours. Given the cleverness of the first two chapters, the unrelenting dreadfulness of the remainder of the book is bewildering. (July)
From the Publisher

“Read as a straightforward adventure yarn, ‘Banana Republican’ offers the pleasures of an exotic setting, inventive plotting and a metaphor that captures the waste and fatuity of our more recent global misadventures — not too bad for a slender and unpretentiously written little novel.” —Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times
 
"This first fictional work from Rauchway is a comic picaresque novel of the type made popular by George Fraser in his Flashman novels. But in place of mid-19th-century Europe, we have 1924 Nicaragua, and instead of Harry Flashman, we have English poseur Tom Buchanan, formerly of Yale varsity football and 100 percent bluster. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Buchanan was a character in The Great Gatsby, where he got a bad rap as a bully, a boor, and a braggart. He's all of these, but as Tom would say, 'What's wrong with that?' In this delightful novel, Buchanan is sent by his aunt, who controls the purse strings, to set things right for family interests in Nicaragua, where after the first 'free' election in Nicaraguan history, all sides are battling to see who will loot the country's coffers first. Tom looks like a hero but avoids risk of any sort, while he pleasures women and lives through harrowing adventures. After a long ride, he survives—undamaged, unrepentant, and a yahoo still... An enjoyable novel that begs for a sequel." —David Keymer, Library Journal

Library Journal
This first fictional work from Rauchway (history, Univ. of California, Davis; Blessed Among Nations) is a comic picaresque novel of the type made popular by George Fraser in his Flashman novels. But in place of mid-19th-century Europe, we have 1924 Nicaragua, and instead of Harry Flashman, we have English poseur Tom Buchanan, formerly of Yale varsity football and 100 percent bluster. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Buchanan was a character in The Great Gatsby, where he got a bad rap as a bully, a boor, and a braggart. He's all of these, but as Tom would say, What's wrong with that? In this delightful novel, Buchanan is sent by his aunt, who controls the purse strings, to set things right for family interests in Nicaragua, where after the first "free" election in Nicaraguan history, all sides are battling to see who will loot the country's coffers first. Tom looks like a hero but avoids risk of any sort, while he pleasures women and lives through harrowing adventures. After a long ride, he survives—undamaged, unrepentant, and a yahoo still. VERDICT An enjoyable novel that begs for a sequel.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374298944
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 6/22/2010
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 8.62 (w) x 5.92 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

A professor of history at the University of California, Davis, Eric Rauchway is the author of Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America (H&W, 2003) and Blessed Among Nations (H&W, 2006). He lives in northern California.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 17, 2010

    Great summer read!

    An intelligent, swaggering adventure. Makes all that history we had to learn come alive. Looking forward to the sequel and the movie version.

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