There is a definite theme emerging in this blog. Not to brag, but, okay–totally bragging–I have really talented friends. Several of whom have books out right now. This is sort of a big deal, and the next few posts will be dedicated to telling you about the literary feast available at your local bookstore/library. Last time, we discussed Birds of a Lesser Paradise. Today, I’m going to tell you about the novel Flatscreen by Adam Wilson.
Adam’s book gave me the funny sensation of reading about people I knew. Not that I really knew them—the book is fiction. But it’s based on the city where Adam and I both grew up. It was a little trippy seeing landmarks from my hometown throughout the book. But the characters were a little less familiar. Flatscreen‘s protagonist is college-aged Eli, who doesn’t actually go to college. Instead he does drugs, tries to get laid and watches the people around him whose lives are changing while his sits still.
While I didn’t cross paths with too many of the stereotypical “Newton, Massachusetts” characters that make up the cast of this story, it was great fun to read about divorced rich Jewish suburbanites and teens with access to myriad drugs.
In fact, Eli’s family is pretty refreshing when compared with the overbearing parents and stressed out overachieving kids that Newton is also known for. Eli spends the cash his dad floats him on drugs until the checks stop coming—his dad’s one weak effort to “help” his son. Dad is already on marriage number two, with a new set of kids. Eli still lives with his mother who doesn’t tell him to get a job, go to college or get off drugs. She’s too depressed herself.
So what actually goes through the mind of someone at this age going nowhere? Surprise: his future. Usually the apathetic teenager who’s too cool for school does not over-analyze everything and everyone around him, including where he fits into the picture. But Eli thinks constantly about how his “movie” is going to play out, often imagining scripted scenes. It doesn’t help that he watches an inordinate amount of television.
The book also reads like a television series. Fast-paced, slang-filled, often inappropriate, the abbreviated chapters flow one into the next, hardly coming up for air. The momentum contrasts with Eli’s slow-moving days.
As a social commentary, written in the sexually-frustrated vein of Philip Roth and Gary Shteyngart, Flatscreen doesn’t paint today’s youth, or at least this particular youth, in the most promising light. And while we could dwell on the kids who are climbing ever higher, smarter each year, mini social activists—what about the ones that fall through the cracks? I found it entertaining to try those shoes on and explore the other side of town.
Has anyone else read a book based on where they grew up? What are you reading right now?
Images via adamzwilson.com