By Hannah Tucker
Updated February 08, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST

British journalist Harold Cleaver — egotist, incurable philanderer, unapologetic gourmand — scores a career high by humiliating the U.S. president in a televised interview. But his son has just published a scene-stealing roman à clef. Retreating to an isolated cabin in the Alps without TV or cell-phone reception, Cleaver engages his son, the president, and a doll (yes, a doll) named Olga in intense, imaginary debates. It’s much saner than it sounds, as Tim Parks draws a lively critique of modern media out of Cleaver’s soul-searching rants and a surprisingly affectionate portrait of self-reflection and forgiveness in Cleaver. A-