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Naked Ambition by Robert Gott

A review by Nalini Haynes

Gregory Buchanan is a government minister in a state cabinet. Regardless of (Western) country, readers can probably translate that role to their system of government. Premiers in Australia are kind of like governors in the US while the prime minister, colloquially called “the PM”, is Australia’s equivalent of the president. Our systems don’t work the same but that’s not important. Too many politicians have naked ambition as evidenced by the self-parodying political satires of recent years.

But wait, THERE’S MORE.

In Gott’s drawing room comedy, many in the small cast – politicians, a religious fanatic and an artist – all exhibit naked ambition.

But only the politician strips off for a nude portrait in the full knowledge that the artist, Sophie White, intends to exhibit it in the Archibald competition. She’s been a finalist several times but never won.

This time, she’s convinced, she will win. And she’s prepared to manipulate Gregory (whose arrogance and ego makes him a fairly easy target). His wife, Phoebe, is a PR expert and not so easily manipulated… so Sophie resorts to blackmail.

Real world backstory

The author, Robert Gott, has published a phenomenal 97 books across genres, some for kids and some for adults. Possibly what he is better known for, however, is his newspaper cartoon series The Adventures of Naked Man. For more detail on this hilarious true story – a dick joke that lasted TWENTY YEARS and became a cultural phenomena studied by academics – listen to Robert in this podcast. The series was cheeky. Butt cheeks, never any worm-like appendages.

But in Naked Ambition, Gregory’s penis is the focal point. The focal point of the painting and the focal point of the story.

I didn’t know this backstory when reading Naked Ambition yet I cackled my way through the book. It is TRULY hilarious. This backstory adds spice but isn’t essential to enjoying the book.

The verdict

Naked Ambition is a drawing room comedy in the style of Oscar Wilde. Part West Wing, part Yes Minister, part The Importance of Being Ernest, part Everybody Loves Raymond, this comedy also evokes David Williamson’s Dogs Head Bay. The nexus of politics, art and religion – and the inevitable clashes – result in a page turner to delight anyone sufficiently awake to deplore the state of contemporary politics.

Naked Ambition made me cackle like a stereotypical witch so perhaps be a teeny bit cautious about reading in public. It is truly hilarious.

Other comedies I recommend include I Am Not Fine, Thanks by Wil Anderson and Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

Book details

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN13: 9781922585967
Imprint: Scribe Publishing
Pages: 256
Released: 2023
Category: politics, religion in politics, art, comedy

Naked Ambition: behind the title is the rear view of a painting (canvas and stretchers)


Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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