Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt

I'd heard of Helen DeWitt's Lightning Rods and was both intrigued and repelled by its premise. The scheme is to proactively address sexual harassment in the workplace by hiring specific women as sexual lightning rods for men. But then I saw it on Flavorwire's recent 50 Books that Define the Past Five Years in Literature, and spotted it on audio via Hoopla at the library, so I decided to give it a listen.

Joe is a salesman who couldn't sell encyclopedias, and then couldn't sell vacuum cleaners, and then was inspired by his lonely masturbation fantasies to come up with the lightning rods idea. It was a hit.

Audiobook narrator Dushko Petrovich [Dreamscape Media: 7.5 hours] delivers this audacious literary satire in a perfect deadpan. DeWitt has a great ear for language and the close third-person voice makes Joe very real.

"'Oh, you have the Encyclopaedia Britannica!' exclaimed Lucille.
As a former rep Joe had been able to get himself a good deal. It was a lot of money, but then you never know when you're going to need to look something up -- if you have a crazy schedule, you could do worse than just have a Britannica in the home. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but it multiplies a millionfold the dual hazards of creative reportage and fantasy enhancement; if you need the straight poop on some area of research which you have over-hastily sketched in for a client, the Britannica, with its team of accredited experts, will give you a wealth of bibliographical citations not easily refuted by casual recourse to the wackos at Wikipedia. In this type of eventuality focus is all-important; the apparent saving represented by an online subscription or CD, with the attendant opportunities for XXXX-rated distraction, may too easily prove a false economy."

It's edgy and thoughtful and funny and I loved it.

Readalikes: Worst. Person. Ever. (Douglas Coupland); The Blondes (Emily Schultz).

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