Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Flatscreen

Summary: Flatscreen tells the story of Eli Schwartz as he endures the loss of his home, the indifference of his parents, the success of his older brother, and the cruel and frequent dismissal of the opposite sex. He is a loser par excellence—pasty, soft, and high—who struggles to become a new person in a world where nothing is new. 

Into this scene of apathy rolls Seymour J. Kahn. Former star of the small screen and current paraplegic sex addict, Kahn has purchased Eli’s old family home. The two begin a dangerous friendship, one that distracts from their circumstances but speeds their descent into utter debasement and, inevitably, YouTube stardom. 

By story’s end, through unlikely acts of courage and kindness, roles will be reversed, reputations resurrected, and charges (hopefully) dropped. Adam Wilson writes mischief that moves the heart, and Flatscreen marks the wondrous debut of a truth-telling comic voice. -- Harper Perennial

I hardly know where to start with my review of the new novel FLATSCREEN by Adam Wilson . Actually, I read the novel over a month ago so it's not as new as it was when I first read it. For some strange reason, I've procrastinated writing this review. It's not because I didn't enjoy the book because I eventually found it pretty entertaining (but more on that later.) I think it's just one of those books that I have a hard time getting my head around.

FLATSCREEN is about Eli Schwartz, and in many ways it's his coming-of-age story. Eli is a young man who is basically a loser. He is overweight and unemployed and he spends more time and effort on finding drugs than finding a job. When Eli meets Seymour, a former television/movie star who is now a paraplegic sex addict (that's the book description's term, not mine!), his life becomes even messier. Seymour is an enabler for all things wrong with Eli, and it's up to Eli to figure out who he really wants to be through the confusion of his life.

I am going to preface this review by stating that I'm pretty sure that I'm not the target audience for FLATSCREEN. It's not the summary of the book that gave me my first clue. Rather, it was how totally uncool I felt reading this book. Not that I ever was a cool person, but I honestly didn't get a lot of this book. (I can't believe I'm admitting just how much of a loser I am!) I knew I was missing out on lots of pop culture references, but now that I'm middle-aged, I figure that kind of goes with the territory. What was a little surprising for me, though, was the humor in this novel. I knew that what I was reading was supposed to be funny (in a very dark way), but it took me a few chapters to actually get used to it and relax enough to smile. This book was outrageous, irreverent, and even raunchy; however, once I accepted Eli's character, I found myself laughing out loud at his insights and actions.

However, it wasn't just the humor that made this book special. Since FLATSCREEN is sort of a coming-of-age tale (albeit not like any coming-of-age story that I've ever read), there were touching moments as well. Given that Eli was by all accounts a loser, my heart did go out to him at times. While it was kind of hard for me to relate to certain aspects of his character -- i.e. he was a druggie, fantasized about Latina women, and compared many aspects of his life to movies and television shows, he was also a 20 year old kid who never got over his parents divorce. Eli was basically a good guy that was just on the wrong track, and I so wanted him to grow up and accept himself.

This book has received a lot of very positive reviews from some much cooler people than I. I don't know that it's for everyone, but I do think there's an audience out there that will find this book to be extremely entertaining.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Beth F said...

Just as I suspected. I passed on this because I **know** I'm way too uncool for this. I'm not totally out of it, but yes, I'm past the age of some of the cultural reference.

bermudaonion said...

Since I have an child who is a young adult, maybe I'll get some of the references. Great review!

Happy birthday, dear friend!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Doesn't sound like it's for me either!

Serena said...

Happy Birthday! I had no idea it was your birthday until Kathy mentioned it. I must be slow. Or I already said so on your Facebook page and totally forgot...It's been a rough few days here.

Pop culture books and I have a love-hate relationship, but I may give this a try if I see it at the library.

Sandy Nawrot said...

First, happy birthday you! You get a free day to do whatever you want. As far as this book, I have read a few of these "men acting badly" crisis books, and I do find them funny. I consider myself fairly up on pop culture, plus my kids help, so I'm curious if I am actually dorkier than I think! Ha!