Marc Bernardin
September 17, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Florence of Arabia

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Christopher Buckley
publisher
Random House
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B

From the title on down, Buckley is all but begging you to notice how witty he is. And it’s not hard to agree, since his tale of the attractive Florence Farfaletti’s transformation from State Department cog to beacon of hope for repressed Islamic women in the Middle East is, at the start, very witty indeed. The story in Florence of Arabia spins on a pair of countries, Wasabia (”the Middle East’s preeminent ‘no-fun zone”’) and the far more liberal Matar (”pronounced, for reasons unclear, mutter”), and America’s attempt to stabilize the much-contested region by, naturally, launching a TV station with an Italian-American hottie at the helm. It’s only when Buckley realizes he can’t joke his way out of the horrors that would occur in albeit fictional regimes that the book clashes with itself. Some things even Buckley can’t make funny.

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