Floater /

As a "floating" writer on a national magazine, Fred Becker's greatest diversion is keeping score on all office romances, until a hot tip about the president's wife gives his career a new boost.

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Main Author: Trillin, Calvin.
Format: Book
Published: New Haven : Ticknor & Fields, 1980.
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Review by Kirkus Book Review

At a ""shop"" like Time or Newsweek, a ""floater"" is an all-purpose writer who moves around from department to department as circumstances demand. So--a few days with mild-tempered, unambitious floater Fred Becker give droll Mr. Trillin just enough frame for this leisurely, low-key satire of the newsmagazine scene. True, there's a fillip of plot here: Fred gets a phony hot tip (the President's wife is pregnant!) that turns out to be part of a dippy little Shepherd Mead-ish scheme--with Fred as unwitting pawn--to sabotage the career of a universally loathed senior editor. And nice, daydreamy Fred himself provides some of the comedy: he suspects it's no coincidence that Cyprus (his least favorite subject) erupts whenever he's assigned to Foreign Affairs (""All over the island people would say, 'He's there! He's there!' in Greek or Turkish, a signal for everyone to haul out the bombs and Bren guns . . .""); he spends his Religion-department time making up hagiographies to reflect modern connotations of saintly names (""St. Thomas was a duty-free liquor-store clerk who met a grisly end when he tried to close the shop at five o'clock. . . even though some of the tourists present had not yet bought their full exemption""); and he has a strident ex-wife who left him for ecological reasons (""I cannot live with a man who makes a joke of preservatives""). But mostly Fred is just an agreeable excuse for Trillin's affectionate skewerings of newsmagazine folk and mores: sweetly out-to-lunch managing editor Wally, whose considered opinion of everything is ""Golly!""; senior editor Smithers, who's ""under the impression that Thorst and Veblen were two people who had written a textbook together""; fabricating, eager-to-please Midwestern stringers; the office bore, the office gossip (who somehow manages to stumble on illicit staff trysts even in Newark); the desperate scramble for Lifestyle Section items (""I don't know how you feel about this one from Chicago about people wrapping these big Lake Michigan fish in aluminum foil and then steaming them in their automatic dishwashers""). And when Fred dreams of turning his hot tip into a hot White House novel, Trillin gets in some nice book-biz shots during a high-energy publishing lunch. . . where even the waiter advises: ""Never talk net. Always talk gross."" Few big laughs, mostly just smiles, and there's no real effort to broaden the appeal here beyond a pretty special, limited audience; but Trillin's a charmer, always back-homey enough to be sharp without sounding smart-alecky, and even lesser Trillin is cause for a little genteel celebration. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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