Book Review: “Waiting for Al Gore” — Birds of a Feather

By Ed Meek

For a lighthearted take on some serious issues, Waiting for Al Gore delivers.

Waiting for Al Gore by Bob Katz. Flexible Press, Minnesota, 2024. 266 pages.

Bob Katz is a journalist and the author of a number of books, both fiction and nonfiction, including Third and Long, winner of the Independent Book Publishers Association Popular Fiction Award. He has written for the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Newsweek.

Waiting for Al Gore is a satire about a budding freelance journalist, Lenny Beibel, who drives to Vermont to cover an environmental conference by a utopian activist group called EarthKare. They are a quirky mixed tribe of true believers headed by a smart independent woman who manages to organize them just enough to pull the conference together. EarthKare’s hope is to hook the famous Al Gore (creator of An Inconvenient Truth and, according to Gore, the Internet) into being the keynote speaker but, in the meantime, in case he doesn’t come through, Rachel comes up with a wellness guru who inspires his audience with an approach he calls JogThink that involves — you guessed it — jogging as a way to focus the mind and feel better about yourself.

Katz is happy to skewer all parties beginning with EarthKare: “The compound resembled a Hobbit Village. Beibel half expected to find Bilbo Baggins in the doorway, his pudgy hand shielding his eyes as he tracked a butterfly flitting among the dandelions.”

Katz shifts the point of view between Beibel; Rachel, EarthKare’s director, a beautiful former cheerleader; Wolfram, “A burly slope-shouldered man, as large as an NFL lineman”; and Henry, the enigmatic wellness guru. A subplot follows the search for a rare bird called an Oswald that is rumored to be in the area. The hearsay about the fowl prompts a pack of elderly bird-watchers to show up for the conference.

These subjects are all made fun of by Katz. Bird-watchers are an easy target: “There was a stocky no-neck gentleman sporting a floppy safari hat that gave him the appearance of a toadstool.” The bird-watcher’s famous need for silence is violated by Beibel who, as he follows the birders into the woods in search of Oswald, ends up sneezing.

The wellness movement, festooned with its gurus, practitioners, and journalist drum beaters, seems ripe for taking down. The New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post all include sections dedicated to instructing us in how we can make ourselves happier and healther: how to sleep longer, how to exercise more efficiently, what to eat, and what to buy. Happiness has become a kind of religion — and industry — in America: its priests and corporate heads make big money and generate huge followings, from Oprah and Dr. Phil to an expanding group of podcasters and influencers including Courtney Swan, founder of Realfoodology, Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe, David Sinclair, who focuses on extending life spans through a plant-based diet. Wait, did I forget to mention self-care?

Al Gore has been around for quite a while. When he was running for President in 1999, Saturday Night Live had some fun with his stiff demeanor and booming voice; millennials grew up turning out to school showings of An Inconvenient Truth, a climate change movie that was initially lampooned by the right wing, but turned out to be pretty much dead on in its predictions of environmental breakdown. Some of us occasionally wonder how our recent history of climate change denial and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan might have gone differently had the US Supreme Court not handed the 2000 presidential election to Bush (after questionable recounts in Florida). Unlike sore loser Trump, Gore conceded the election.

Given its targets, this novel should be a lot funnier than it is. Katz never really gets beneath the surface in the development of his characters, but he does manage to bring it all together by the end. For a lighthearted take on some serious issues, Waiting for Al Gore delivers.

Ed Meek is the author of High Tide (poems) and Luck (short stories).


  1. Gerald Peary on February 20, 2024 at 2:10 pm

    What a lazy review, with two of the last three paragraphs having nothing at all to do with the supposedly reviewed book, and one of the longest run-on sentences I’ve ever seen covering most of paragraph two. The negative example Meek gives of what he calls “an easy target” of a birdwatcher to me is an extremely funny description. “Turning out” and “turned out” in the same paragraph? That’s bad writing. Did Meek even proofread what he wrote before sending his review off? It doesn’t feel so. And what a surprise in his last paragaph when he lectures, “the book should have been funnier than it is.” That comes from nowhere. And “…he does manage to bring it all together in the end” also comes from nowhere. I as a reader have no idea what Meek is talking about. A published poet and short story writer? Really?

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