Bug Jack Barron is the tale of a muckraking talk show host who takes on a powerful, unscrupulous entrepreneur and gets more trouble than he bargained for. It is not much of a novel of character. The vivid images in the stream-of-consciousness soliloquies do not reveal character as much as they set mood and milieu. We do learn that Bennie Howards is a thoroughly nasty man, willing to do anything to attain his goals. Lucas Greene both enjoys his perks and power as the first black governor of Mississippi, and worries that he has sold out to the system by the very process of gaining power. Other secondary characters merely act out their roles in the plot.
Only Jack Barron and his ex-wife Sara come across as more complex people. Their values were shaped in the counterculture of late 1960s Berkeley, which they both look back to as a golden age in their lives. As Jack moved from defying the system to his call-in show slot, he tasted real power. Unable to resist, he hates himself for succumbing to its lure. Along the way, Sara found herself unable to live with the new, success-hungry Jack, and left him.
Has Jack sold out, as Sara says? He thinks he has. It is true that Jack Barron uses unsavory tricks to bug his powerful adversaries. He is master of the spin long before the term spin meister was invented in real life. He revels in shaping public opinion, in the sheer power this gives him, and in the perks that go along with it, like...
(The entire section is 480 words.)
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