In May of 2004, Ana Marie Cox, late of Wonkette, linked to a blog by Jessica Cutler, an entry-level Hill staffer who documented her for-cash trysts under the name Washingtonienne. Cox titled her post “A Girl After Our Own Heart,” adding in parentheses, “She’s So Getting a Book Deal Out of This.”
Cutler wasn’t the only one who walked away with a book deal. In Dog Days, Cox’s novelized version of the scandal, she echoes the contents of that fortuitous parenthetical (in the book, it comes from a blogger called Swamp Thing)—but leaves out the title’s friendly first half. The book has no love for Heather, the skanky waitress known as the blogger Capitolette. Perhaps this is because Heather didn’t actually write any of Capitolette’s posts; perhaps it’s because Dog Days, an acid political satire, doesn’t have much affection for anything Washington related.
Melanie, a junior-level communications staffer on a Democratic presidential campaign, is trying desperately to handle a double-whammy of bad press: A group of Swift-boat-style crazies publicly allege that her boss was brainwashed by Harvard scientists, and a local gossip writer discovers that she’s having an affair with a married journalist. To deflect the attention, Melanie and her best friend Julie set up a blog as the Capitolette, a local harlot whose Hill flings are entirely bipartisan. Then they recruit Heather to play the part.
At times, Dog Days sounds like it was written by a more sartorially inclined Raymond Chandler: “Clothes hung out of Melanie’s suitcase like they had been shot trying to escape.” But most of the quips read as if Cox, freed from the demands of the lightning-quick blogosphere, began to second-guess her usual wisecracks. Wonkette’s voice succeeds because it’s fast and gutter-minded: Without the butt-sex jokes, all that’s left is stylized cynicism.