Sunday, May 11, 2008

Boobus Americanus

As always, Connie Willis blew me away. Inside Job is a thoroughly enjoyable novella about a magazine writer who exposes psychics and mediums (apparently not "media").

But it's basically an homage to H.L.Mencken! What student of the 1920s wouldn't love it?

A spiritualist in Hollywood starts channeling the spirit of H.L. Mencken, a notorious skeptic of all thing nonscientific. The magazine writer, with his drop-dead gorgeous assistant, sets out to prove it's all fake.

Willis' brilliance shines through with the ending. She makes a reference earlier on to the fact that Mencken left the Scopes trial early, before Clarence Darrow famously cross-examined William Jennings Bryan on the stand, and that he never got to see the end of the trial. Throughout the story, the question is, why would a modern-day medium channel Mencken, of all people? Why not the usual Cleopatra or Alexander the Great? The answer, in the last few pages, comes from a schoolroom in Tennessee as well... the debate over intelligent design! There's still a lot of unfinished business there ...

Loved the irony!