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Sucking Up

A Brief Consideration of Sycophancy
Deborah Parker and Mark Parker

BUY Cloth · 136 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813940892 · $19.95 · Oct 2017
BUY Ebook · 136 pp. · ISBN 9780813940908 · $19.95 · Oct 2017

Suck-up. Ass-kisser. Brownnoser. Bootlicker. Lickspittle. Toadeater... Found in every walk of life, both real and imagined, sycophants surround us. But whether we grumble about sycophancy or grudgingly tolerate it as a price of getting along in a complex society, we rarely examine it closely. This book humorously considers that slavish art from the historical past to our current political environment, and particularly through the revealing lens of literature. Some of the grandest examples of yes-men appear in these pages--from Dante’s flatterers and Dickens’s Uriah Heep to Kellyanne Conway, who urged us to "go buy Ivanka’s stuff," and the obsequious soul who apologized to Vice President Cheney for being shot by him.

More relevant now than ever, as sucking up becomes the master trope of the Trump era, this choice romp through the spectacular world of bowing and scraping will entertain and enlighten.


Sucking Up is a terrific book. And I'm not just saying that because the authors have called me the greatest living American writer.

Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize-winning Humorist

A short book with a fierce bite.


[A] pithy, tongue-in-cheek exploration of the history of flattery.

Washington Post

We have entered a period of spectacular bowing and scraping, in which White House staff compete publicly in stroking the ego of their flattery-addicted boss.... [Sucking Up] examines sycophancy from several perspectives — from the earliest types in classical literature and history, through the models developed by modern sociology, but most of all through the lens of literature.


A delightful read, really fascinating subject, real eye-opener for me... this book is small but it really has a lot packed in there.

Guy Rathbun

As Deborah and Mark Parker would put it, humans have been perfecting the art of "sucking up" to get ahead for a long, long time. With tongue not always in cheek, the authors give an account of ass-kissing from the ancient Romans to Kellyanne Conway and lots of interesting history in between.

Howard Lovy · Foreword Reviews

So very, very timely.... So poignant the message. A wonderful little book.

Arlene Bynon Show

This is a marvelous book, compact and chock full of stories.

Jefferson Exchange

About the Author: 

Deborah Parker is Professor of Italian at the University of Virginia. Mark Parker is Professor of English at James Madison University. They are coauthors of Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown.

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