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Flatscreen: A Novel by Adam Wilson

Flatscreen: A Novel

by Adam Wilson

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Showing 5 of 5
Flatscreen was kind of... flat. But deliberately so, I think -- the protagonist, Eli Schwartz, is a young, disaffected kind of guy, no job, no real prospects, smokes too much pot, and most of his drifting around over the course of the book involves trying to make connection to someone, anyone. The characters are all a bit flat in affect, and whereas in a different kind of story it would be frustrating and alienating, here it works. Nobody quite feels real, but since they don't to Eli either, I can relate. And his oddball internet- and late-night-TV-fueled inner voice is weirdly likeable. Nobody from the book is sticking with me particularly, but again -- form's following function here, and I don't know that they need to. I do think I got a contact high just from reading about all those drugs. ( )
  lisapeet | Jan 1, 2014 |
Funny, smart, and sad all at the same time. It's a book about suburbia and what it'd actually mean to stay here and live an unexamined life. Drugs, sex, music, and mostly a whole lot of boredom - that's Eli's life. Even after he lands a surrogate father figure, he can't quite rouse himself out of this stupor... because it just doesn't really seem worth it. It's a "slacker novel to end all slacker novels" because he isn't disaffected or rebelling - he just doesn't really care. There's nothing behind it.

Read it when you go home to see your parents, when you're walking up your driveway and the whole town is silent, when you see your high school friends still going to parties in the same basements as they were five years ago. It's funny and sad and you'll be happy you made the choices you did - or maybe you'll feel deeply uncomfortable about the fact that you're still living in your mom's basement. Either way, this is a brilliant book.

More about it at RB: http://wp.me/pGVzJ-lF

(PS: a big thanks to Harper Perennial for sending along a review copy!) ( )
1 vote drewsof | Jul 9, 2013 |
Over the past year I've read a number of books in which the main character(s) emerge from structure of school into the chaos of the real world and find themselves lost in the shuffle. Most of the time these are post-college novels in which the character discovers that maybe that thing they wanted wasn't what they wanted at all. This is not one of those novels. At the center of Adam Wilson's debut novel is Eli Schwartz, high school graduate, Food Network junkie, recreational drug user. His parents' marriage has fallen apart and he's been living in his mother's basement for a few years while the rest of his friends have gone off to college. Eli's life is without proper form - all of the structure in his life has either expired (school), disintegrated (family), or run dry (money). All that's left for him is getting high and watching tv. It's kind of a slacker-stoner novel.

The beginning of Flatscreen feels like a well-managed exercise in stream-of-consciousness writing. It jumps like a late-90's music video - flashing tangentially related images that all somehow come together in a weird but cohesive vision. Within the first few pages Wilson gives the reader a good taste of what the next 300+ pages will be like - dark, silly, strange, profane, and sad. The rest of the book is presented in short chapters that alternate between traditional and nontraditional storytelling methods. Sometimes these nontraditional sections take the form of lists and later in the novel these sections are the imagined 19 alternate endings to Eli's story.

This is one of those books where I felt indifferent about the story but enjoyed the craft and construction of the novel. The prose is so quick that it sometimes feels more like reporting then your normal run-of-the-mill writing.

"Wife Three had wine-stained lips. Sat on Dan's dad's lap in purple velvet (low cut, one freckle on the lip of her cleavage) sipping champagne, feeding him chocolate covered strawberries while he stroked her hemline. She fed him without looking at him. Glaze wandered the party, fixing for a moment on the TV, passing to other guests, walls, windows; legs crossed, bouncing slightly, right foot bent down like a ballerina's. Mascara had caked, flaked off her lashes. It stuck in little pieces to her cheek, resembled one of those tear tattoos people in prison get to commemorate their dead homeys. Dan's dad had his eyes closed. Licked his lips, then Wife Three's finger, pretending to bite her wedding ring. When he opened his eyes he saw me."

There's so much to like about the writing that it's a shame that I didn't care all that much about the characters. You want Eli to get sober, find a job and just do something productive, but he's so invested in the self-aware slacker persona that he's crafted for himself that he just can't get off the metaphorical couch. The only people he tries to connect with are damaged by their own tragedies. There's Seymour Kahn, former actor and paraplegic, who acts as a sort of bizarre Buddha with a rifle to Eli. And then there's the tortured Alison Ghee, whose boyfriend recently killed himself and gives Eli just enough attention that that she becomes part of his fantasies.

Flatscreen is interesting because in many ways it seems like a reflection of our current internet-enhanced lives. All of the characters interact, but they never really know each other. Eli sends a sort of love-letter to his never-gonna-happen love interest, Jennifer Estes, but it's not scrawled on lined notebook paper, it's not even an email - it's a Facebook message. Facebook, the land of paper-thin relationships, filled mostly with people you used to know. None of Eli's relationships with non-family members go beyond superficial. Even his family members are kept at arm's length.

I am so different from characters like Eli and the people in his life that I had a really difficult time relating to much of anything in the book. I didn't feel like I had anything invested in whether Eli got his act together or whether anyone actually ended up happy or doing anything productive. The book moves along at a brisk pace and I rolled with it, enjoying the scenery but caring very little about where we ended up. It's clearly a case of the subject matter existing outside of my own personal experience and therefore not really my thing. Yet I know that this is a book that will definitely speak to certain people and they will absolutely love it.
  brooks | Apr 3, 2012 |
The Good Stuff

Totally bizarre and unique
Some of the dialogue (and inner dialogue) is LMAO funny
Good writing
Excellent character development
All of the characters feel very realistic like people you would see on the street
Dark and quirky - sort of reminds me of something that Apatow would make into a movie

The Not So Good Stuff

Eli is a loser and I just found myself disliking him and feeling uncomfortable because he was so pathetic
Language is over the top base and vulgar at times & I am no prude, but it just really irritated me
This is definitely one that men will enjoy more
This was not my sort of book, so its hard to review positively - but please Adam if you read this review do not be offended, its just not my bag - you got talent though

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"She's a sucker for men who are the opposite of me," Kahn said. "In that I taught her well."

"She'd bought a Mercedes SUV after the divorce, but sold it later to pay medical bills when her brother got prostrate cancer. Now Ned was dead and I bet she wished she'd kept the car, as the money she'd spent on health care didn't help in the end, and the medical costs had sealed her fast as a social pariah among the wallet-conscious women of Quinosset."

"If you don't write back just know that I don't mean anything weird by this message. I'm a good soul who's gone a bit off the deep end. My brother is a nerd, my mother is a drunk, my father is an asshole. I'm trying here, I'm really trying. Please write me back."

Who Should/Shouldn't Read

Hate to be sexist but this is one I think will appeal to the male reader
Those who like something just a little bit different, this one is for you
Think my brother would like this one

3 Dewey's

I received this from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review ( )
  mountie9 | Feb 27, 2012 |
Unfortunately, Wilson writes with an overly brisk style, eschewing pronouns and linking verbs, and all too often falling into a stream-of-consciousness rant that is distracting and difficult to read. I don't mind that the main character is barely sympathetic (in fact I like that), but the framing of the writing and the author's mindset to stick with it through thick and thin (and it gets very thin), does the story no favors. ( )
  omphalos02 | Dec 13, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
Adam Wilson’s debut novel, Flatscreen, has been billed as a comedy of barely post-adolescent confusion, but there’s far more heartwreck than hilarity in these rambunctious pages. Eli Schwartz has just turned twenty, that awkward purgatory of an age when one arrives unprepared at the cusp of adulthood. Drug-addled, overweight, unemployed, and unlucky with the opposite sex, Eli ascertains his fractured life through a constant referencing of television and film. For his geekish ilk, illuminated screens have supplanted reality and left them ill equipped to navigate the rough waters of their world.
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An object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
—Sir Isaac Newton

Hold steady.
—The Hold Steady
for my brother
First words
But maybe Mom’s not the place to start, though she’s where I began (in her I took shape, grew limbs, prepared to breathe oxygen, albeit with a slight asthmatic wheeze that has not been helped by cigarettes), and where all this coming-of-age stuff inevitably buds then barely blooms, like the pale azaleas Mrs. Todd put on her porch every spring but never watered, letting the rain try to raise them up, make them stand and receive sunlight, just as the constant dull glow of the television tried with me, equally failed.
Dan’s dad was a sleaze, but he must have been smart or smart enough. Pulled up by his bootstraps, this was his reward: succession of wives, each younger, more silicone-cyborg than the last. He’d grown hefty through the years, gut expanding with bank account.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 006209033X, Paperback)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2012: There is a deep undercurrent of American literature dedicated to the misanthropes, rejects, madmen, and drunks of society. Flatscreen is a hilarious, worthy addition to this freakish subgenre. The main character, Eli Schwartz, is a stoned, bathrobed, doughy slacker. He befriends a suicidal paraplegic sex addict twice his age, fantasizes about the Hispanic girl who parks cars at his synagogue, mooches off his parents, and gets ridiculed, beat up, and shot at (mostly by his friends and family). Through it all he ponders the ageless questions of Buddhist monks and angst-ridden teens: What’s the point of life? Is anything inherently meaningful? Should I try to be a good person or not? And most importantly, who should play me in the Hollywood adaption of my life? –Benjamin Moebius

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:04 -0400)

"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"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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