March 17, 1997 12:00 PM

by Christopher Buckley

How do you mix a wry martini, Chris Buckley-style? Combine the driest 100-proof wit and a dash of slapstick, shake vigorously in a loving parody of macho flair. Always use a sterling shaker—only the best for the son of conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. and best-dressed perennial Pat Buckley. Pour with self-deprecating irony. Add an olive of old-fashioned wisdom.

Wry Martinis collects bits and pieces (“magazine stuff”) by the author of Thank You for Smoking, a wickedly funny novel that roasts the tobacco lobby. The “terminally Republican” 43-year-old Buckley, who left New York for Washington during the Reagan years and wrote speeches for Vice President Bush, now edits Forbes FYI and contributes regularly to The New Yorker.

His new book is peppered with short takes on news-making events. Politicians (from both parties), defense lawyers and PR flacks are the primary targets. The O.J. jokes are sly and imaginative but hopelessly dated by the civil trial verdict. Mad cow disease is still good for a quick laugh (“The McDonald’s Corporation announced today its plans to introduce a new line of sandwiches called Mad Macs”), but by next year it will have gone stale. This is not humor for the ages.

The longer essays include a sharp-eyed portrait of the ego-constricted author Tom Clancy; a moving, uncharacteristically earnest meditation on the noncombatants of the Vietnam generation; a gee-whiz tour of the USS Nimitz; and a charming chat with Eppie Lederer (aka Ann Landers).

Knock back Wry Martinis all at once and you’ll end up woozy and regretful. Best to savor it. Small sips will make you feel civilized and smart and just a little giddy—sort of like Chris Buckley himself. (Random House, $22)

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