Commentary

Oliver's Gay Marlon Bundo Trumps The Pence Version On Amazon

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, the book about a gay rabbit the HBO host introduced on his show Sunday night, hopped to the top of the Amazon bestseller list yesterday, leaping over the book it trolls, Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President, which was written by the Mike Pence’s daughter, Charlotte, and illustrated by his wife, Karen.

“In it, Marlon Bundo, a snappily dressed bunny with a penchant for bright bow ties, falls in love with a bespectacled boy bunny named Wesley. Things seem to be going pretty well for the two lovebirds (love bunnies?) until a powerful stinkbug who bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Pence decrees that male bunnies cannot marry each other,” writes Liam Stack in the New York Times.

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“In the grand tradition of children’s literature, the story ends on a happy note. An image released by the book’s publisher … shows Marlon Bundo and Wesley standing in a field, wearing tuxedos, as a cat in clerical garb marries them,” Stack continues.

The cat, named Pajama, “brought her wife as her date,” in fact.

As of early this morning, 94% of more than 4,000 reviewers on Amazon gave the book the maximum five stars. And reflecting our political polar divide, 5% of the remaining 6% of readers gave it one star.

“Such a cute book about love, supportive friends, being different, and voting for love. Buy it for everyone and then go donate to the Trevor project. :),” reads the top comment, which more than 2,500 people found “helpful.”

The Pence book, which targets 3 to 8 year olds, garners 86% five-star reviews itself, with 10% of readers(?) giving it their lowest ranking. But the voting base in much smaller: just under a hundred people.

The Second Daughter “seems totally chill about” Oliver’s revisioning of their bunny’s life, reports Matt Wilstein for The Daily Beast

“Charlotte and her mother Karen Pence were on Fox Business Network with Maria Bartiromo to promote their new book when the host casually brought up the fact that Oliver’s parody book about a gay bunny … had just knocked James Comey’s upcoming memoir off of Amazon’s top spot,” he writes.

“I mean, I think you know, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery in a way,” Pence told Bartiromo. “But also, in all seriousness, his book is contributing to charities that I think we can all get behind. We have two books giving to charities that are about bunnies so I’m all for it really.”

The proceeds of Oliver’s take, which actually was written by his staff writer Jill Swiss and illustrated by E.G. Keller, will be donated to The Trevor Project and AIDS United, “while the Pences will donate a portion their proceeds to A21, a nonprofit focused on combating human trafficking, and an art therapy program at Riley Hospital for Children,” reports CNN’s Betsy Klein.

The Pences’ publisher, Regnery Publishing, was not as magnanimous in its reaction, stating: “It's unfortunate that anyone would feel the need to ridicule an educational children's book and turn it into something controversial and partisan. Our and Mrs. and Charlotte Pence's goal is — and will continue to be — to educate young readers about the important role of the vice president, as well as to highlight the charities to which portions of the book proceeds will be donated.” 

“Pence’s daughter and wife are taking to TV this week” to promote the book, Lisa de Moraes reports for Deadline: Hollywood. Oliver was doing his own publicity tour yesterday, telling Ellen DeGeneres that the print version “has sold out, but another printing is in the works asap.”

There is also a Kindle edition and an audiobook that features performances from Jim Parsons, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jeff Garlin, Ellie Kemper, John Lithgow, Jack McBrayer, and RuPaul.

“The Stinkbug may just be my finest work.  Thanks @LastWeekTonight!," Lithgow tweeted late Sunday night.

And speaking of stinkbugs, many people are. A piece in The New Yorker earlier this month — “When Twenty-Six Thousand Stinkbugs Invade Your Home” — drew a rare full page of reactions in this week issue, starting with this one from Ken Horowitz of Stamford, Conn.:

“I have zero interest in brown marmorated stinkbugs; in fact, I’d rather be entirely ignorant of them. But, on reading the first few sentences of Kathryn Schulz’s article about them, understanding what I was in for and wishing to avoid it at all costs . . . well, I simply could not tear myself away. That she was able to lure me in and keep me reading to the very end is proof of her spell-weaving ability.”

Good to know there’s still compelling reading outside of the latest political scandals.

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