Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 06/27/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/27/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Christopher Buckley

KICKING THE HABIT

"HOW CAN A SATIRIST WRITING TODAY possibly compete with real news stories like one about the government spending $500,000 to see if cattle belch enough methane to contribute to global warming? The answer is, it's tough," says Christopher Buckley, 41, who finished his novel shortly before the captains of the tobacco industry testified before Congress that cigarettes are not addictive.

Chris, the son of conservative columnist William F. Buckley Jr., first considered writing a serious nonfiction study of hypocrisy in America. "But I wasn't sure I'd be telling anything new. So I hit on the challenge of making a tobacco spokesman likable; to make the main character a little bit like me: an aging yuppie," says Buckley, who was educated by "godless multiculturalists" (at Yale), became the editor of Esquire at 24, wrote speeches for Vice President George Bush (1981-83), published a best-seller, The White House Mess (1986), and now lives in Washington with his wife, Lucy, daughter Caitlin, 6, and "terrorist" Conor, 2.

Buckley started smoking at 13 and quit on Sept. 14, 1988, when a dear friend died an "agonizing, unpretty death" from lung cancer. "On that terrible day some toggle switch inside my pleasure receptors turned off. I've never since been tempted to have a cigarette," he says, "not even after a second martini or a good roll in the hay."

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