Book note: A controversial satire of a controversy


Open Line is a satirical novel written by Ellen Hawley, a native of New York who now divides her time between Minneapolis and Cornwall, England. The story unfolds at breakneck speed as Hawley spins the tale of Annette Majoris, a young late-night radio talk show host in the Twin Cities. On a slow night, after listening to a Vietnam war veteran, Annette responds with a preposterous statement: She suggests that the Vietnam War never happened. Immediately all of the incoming lines light up, and Annette becomes an instant celebrity.

Soon, Annette is caught up in a whirlwind: speaking to crowds of people, traveling around the country, staying in luxury hotels, and finding romance with the wealthy son of a milling executive. As her celebrity grows, she encounters an intriguing cast of characters ranging from a right-winger to a libertarian to the governor of Minnesota. Hawley creates vivid portraits of all these colorful personalities. We follow Annette’s many indiscretions and her increasing absorption in the fantasy that she has invented.

Open Line, a novel by Ellen Hawley. Published by Coffee House Press (2008). $14.95. Ellen Hawley will be reading from Open Line at the Loft (1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis) on Thursday, May 15, at 7:00 p.m.; and at Once Upon a Crime (604 W. 26th St., Minneapolis) on Thursday, May 22, at 7:00 p.m.

However, the novel itself is a fantasy, and the plot is not at all believable. I had a hard time getting immersed in the book. Though I’m aware that the novel is meant as a satire, the book left me with an uneasy feeling. To me, it felt disrespectful even to joke about the denial of a heartwrenching war that destroyed so many lives.

Mary Thoemke, a lifelong resident of St. Paul, lives in the North End neighborhood. Now working as a freelance writer, Mary is retired from the St. Paul Public Schools. She also served as editor of the North End News, a community newspaper.