from June 1, 2004
Every vice-presidential aspirant has his or her detractors and admirers. Unfortunately, a considerable number of them write books. Seldom do we find a fair, measured, objective account of the strengths and weaknesses, the outstanding attributes and foibles, of the candidate under scrutiny.
Fortunately, The Orville Slack IV Story, by Ab Ennis, belongs in the latter category. The prose is lucid, simple, and elegant. The facts have been thoroughly researched. The aspirant for the second-highest office in the land, Orville Slack IV (1898-2003), was, in the interview conducted for this book by Mr. Ennis, the esteemed author and presidential candidate of the Dead Rights Party, accurate, unsentimental, and humble. What we have in this volume is, in a phrase, Pulitzer material.
Mr. Slack comes from humble circumstances. Born in Prairie City, straddling the Kansas- Oklahoma border, in or around 1898, which used to be referred to as turn-of-the-century times, he recalls sitting on the respective knees of Orville Slack, Sr., Orville Slack Jr., and Orville Slack III on the unpainted, rickety porches that in those days rotted the landscape of Prairie and other Oklahoma wide spots in the road.
It was from his salt-of-the-earth ancestors that he imbibed the values that make America somewhere between pretty damn good and great. Among those values, indeed the one that sticks out in his still-lucid mind, was the one for which he was to become noted if not quite a celebrity: the art of begging off. Though he quickly concedes that this value is seldom if ever cited by observers as the quintessential American value, he is equally quick to insist that, when practiced according to his advice and on a widespread scale, begging off would make the American empire the superior of those that preceded it: the Egyptian, the Ming, the Ashokan, the Assyrian, the Babylonian, the Ottoman, the Ching, the Aztec, the Mayan, the Alexandrian, the Roman, the Holy Roman, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Japanese, the British, and indeed any others that he might have omitted or misspelled.
His, however, is not a life without a twinge or two of regret. He would have liked to have had a legitimate son to carry on his traditional wisdom. He would have liked to have had a lovely wife to anticipate his every need. He would have liked to have had a few mistresses. He would have liked to have become mayor of Prairie City, then Governor of Oklahoma. He would have liked to have become born again, though on further reflection he drawled that now that his urn is outfitted with the robotic apparatus provided by the Myles Junior Cremation Service and spiffy clothing from the Children’s Wear Section of Sears, this wish has been fulfilled beyond his wildest dreams.
(Disclosure: this forthcoming book is in its first draft.)