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Read My Lips, Make My Day, Eat Quiche and Die!
posted April 6, 2006

imageCreator: Garry Trudeau
Publishing Information: Andrews McMeel, 96 pages, 1989, $6.95
Ordering Numbers: 0836218450 (ISBN)

A collection taken from the era of the George Bush presidential campaign in 1988, Read My Lips, Make My Day, Eat Quiche and Die! shows of late-'80s Doonesbury's strengths and still-novel weaknesses. There are runs of material in this volume about the brutal dissolution of Mike and J.J.'s marriage that seem terribly funny; Trudeau really captures how self-involved characters push through major life changes, and some of the character work, like Zonker inexplicably showing up on Mike's doorstep hours after J.J. leaves, works extremely well in that it's funny if you don't know the character and 10X funnier if you do. On the other hand, there are long stretches of celebrity and political material, which as Trudeau used it starting int he 1980s I always found the weakest part of the strip. Almost two decades later the Ronald Reagan as Max Headroom character Ron Headrest continues to flop on the page like a dead fish on newspaper, saying little to nothing about either Reagan or the unctuous Headroom phenomenon. The stuff about Bush being so unsubstantial he's physically not there is good for a chuckle the first time you see it, but runs so counter to the nuances and subtleties of the regular cast the broad physical joke tends to irritate more than delight. I've always been confused by Trudeau's decision to do such overt politico and celebrity characterization, because certainly his cast is varied enough to be used to make nearly every single one of those same points without seeming like a stunt. At least with a book you can simply move on to the better material.

Also, for those interested, the book's covers contained multiple examples of President Bush (the first one) dealing with Doonesbury's criticism is the most unsatisfactory, passive-aggressive way. It still feels self-congratulatory.