Melanie Thornton is a bright-eyed, "junior varsity" campaign staffer plucked from her native Iowa to work on Senator John Hillman's presidential bid in Washington, D.C. In the throes of campaign madness, she's forever researching TV footage of her candidate acting "spontaneous," and spinning reporters -- with the noted exception of married journalist Rick Stossel, who's spinning Melanie herself in hotel rooms throughout D.C.
To deflect a smear against her candidate from the Swift Boat-like "Citizens for Clear Heads" -- who claim Hillman took part in a mind-control experiment in college that has pre-programmed him to advocate the (gasp!) Marxist notion of redistributing wealth -- Melanie and her consultant friend Julie create Capitolette, a blogger who posts of her sexual escapades with D.C. bigwigs. Her goal is to create a diversion from the smear campaign during the slow summer news cycle. But what the blogosphere giveth, it taketh away.
Dog Days isn't sure if it's a satirical novel about politics, or an excuse for observations about the social mores of D.C. political types. At times, Cox seems poised to plunge into over-the-top satire, yet she invariably retreats to bland political scenery. The problem isn't so much that Cox has nothing to say; it's more that she's unable to craft a character that's viable enough to make us care. We're led to believe Melanie came to D.C. as an earnest idealist -- she wears a Carol Mosley Braun T-shirt with less irony than you might think -- and thus her fall into the political sewer might mean something. Yet no matter how many times she mentions that the election is about "the future of the free world," there's never any sense she really believes it.
The joy of blogs is that they're gleefully unfiltered by pretensions of objectivity and the format constraints of traditional print journalism. This no-holds-barred feel of the blogosphere -- one that Wonkette had a hand in creating -- doesn't translate to Dog Days. The result is a predictable tale of Girl Corrupted and Redeemed that one could almost imagine being savaged in a post by Wonkette herself.