Parody is sometimes the best way to deal with a crisis situation. As soon as I learned that Alexandra Petri had come out with a new book I was eager to read it. Her last book, which I reviewed here some years ago, was such a delight—sharp and funny—that I fell in love with her writing. Although she works for the Washington Post, I don’t regularly read newspapers (no time, if I want to read books) and therefore I don’t get regular doses. Nothing is Wrong and Here Is Why is clearly a book written in a time of national crisis. Yes, it’s funny, but the wound of the Trump years is still too raw to be able to laugh much about it. Too many of his followers still don’t realize they were (are) being played and want him back. It’s scary.
The first, and longest, section of the book are essays about the absolute ridiculousness of life under Trump. It was a difficult and dangerous time for thinking people and although Petri excels as a satirical writer, the freshness of the terror—look at the Taliban and see if they are laughing—is just a little too intense. Petri makes a great case for giving female leadership a try. Any candidate, no matter which party, needs to know how the game is played. And they must care about other people. A pathological narcissist has no business being president of anything, let alone a democracy. If you’re not familiar with satirical writing you’ll misunderstand just about everything Petri writes.
Once she gets beyond the section about Trump (shudder), the essays start to pick up some topics that it’s possible to laugh about. Some of them are quite funny. Although I enjoyed the book—when I started to put it down to get ready for work each morning I found myself saying, “I’ll read just one more.” And three or four essays later I’d find myself rushing upstairs nearly late. If it hadn’t been for the national tragedy called Trump, Petri’s second book might’ve been funny from the start. Parody can be a defense mechanism. At times things are just too painful to bear and those of us who write find ourselves doing our best to keep the mood light while society crumbles around us. When things are ridiculous laughter is really what we need most. We’re lucky to have Petri to provide it. Here is why—she can bring a smile, or at least a smirk, even in a crisis.