Frum says he chose fiction to speak truths that non-fiction could not, but “Patriots” is simply journalism under a different name, and a clumsy and clichéd attack on conservatives. The Constitutionalist Institute, a stand-in for Frum’s former employers, the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, is run by men who give impromptu exams about finding the right to privacy in the Constitution. The CI is the whipping boy in “Patriots,” a Washington Death Star that produces reactionary right-wingers who take over Capitol Hill and sensible conservatism. Their main enemies in the novel are liberals and the new Republican president, whose name I have already forgotten but is based on John McCain.
Even the sex scenes in “Patriots” are dull:
Valerie never asked such questions. I don’t remember exactly how she ended up living in my apartment. Or telling the cleaning lady what to do. Or becoming best friends with my grandmother. She just did it.
She was doing it again that morning.
“Hey,” I said sleepily. “It’s 6 AM!”
“Don’t you like it?” Valerie murmured from beneath the covers. “Do you want me to stop?”
“I like it,” I admitted. “But I’d like it better at nine.”
Her tousled brown hair and big matching eyes emerged from below the sheets. “We have to be on the road by nine. It’s your grandmother’s birthday. We’re expected for lunch.”
Oy vey. Of course, the grandmother has silver hair and a black cane. People slap each other on the knee when they get excited while talking. When strangers become familiar with each other during a conversation, “the ice cracked.”
Frum needs to quit Washington for a while and go work in a soup kitchen or something. For those wanting to see his best work, I recommend his underrated book “The 70s.” It’s informative and interesting, and the sex scenes are much better.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.