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How to Sell by Clancy Martin

How to Sell

by Clancy Martin

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1381786,938 (2.94)6



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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
An oddly engaging story. ( )
  dcmr | Jul 4, 2017 |
"Requiem for a Dream" in the jewelry business. It provided some interesting reflections on how people sell...well, everything (jewelry, self-esteem, sex, love, ideas, drugs, emotion, connection, identity). Not a great novel, but a good one with little gems (sic) popping up occasionally, like: "He had lied to me thousands of times. He lied to me almost as much as he lied to his customers...And if you told him he lied he would deny it with a sincere heart. He was extraordinarily healthy. Psychologically, I mean." ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
Told from the first person perspective of Bobby Clark, this novel focuses on the relationship of Bobby and his brother, Jim. Bobby was an unabashed theft although he was never particularly good at it. When he was expelled from his high school for stealing a case of class rings, he moved to Dallas to live with his brother who worked as a salesman for a jewelry store. Bobby began working at the store, first as a janitor and later as a delivery man.

It becomes clear quite quickly that this store is not on the up-and-up. They sell fakes as the real thing, they manipulate customers, and they do a lot of drugs. When the store owner, Mr. Popper, finally gets caught and the store closes, Bobby and Jim decide to open their own store. The brothers struggle with making ends meet by shifting funds from one place to another and making shifty deals. Their personal lives are also in shambles as their marriages fall apart. When Lisa, a friend from the old jewelry store returns to Bobby’s life, he dives further into a downward spiral.

There is not much of a story in this novel. Most of the focus is on the inner workings of Bobby’s mind and the technicalities of selling, particularly selling bunk merchandise. It was fast-paced and kept me interested even with a lack of a coherent beginning, middle, or ending. Martin has an interesting way of writing that is partly stream of consciousness, partly clipping dialogue.
  Carlie | Oct 6, 2014 |
Martin is a professor of philosophy, and this novel has a deep philosophical subtext. Unfortunately, I'm not sure it's very interesting. Martin's prose is very clear. Unfortunately, I'm not sure etc... Martin has chosen a fascinating setting for his novel (the jewelery business), and an excellent theme (the way 'sales' infiltrates our everyday lives). Unfortunately, I'm not etc...

On the surface, this one had a lot going for it, whether you mean surface figuratively (setting, obvious theme highlighted by the title, general moral seriousness) or literally (great front cover; back cover plumping by Lipsyte ('addictive prose'), Franzen ('greatly original'), Kunkel (has 'the inevitability of a classic'), Shteyngart and Zadie Smith.) But all that surface glitter obscures whatever depth it was meant to have. Another review tells me that Martin himself worries that he put 'too much speed in the fastball,' that is, hid his philosophical concerns under too much drugs and sex, and that's probably accurate. I had a very tough time discerning much other than the drugs and sex. Martin's worry also explains the novel's occasional 'deep' sections, which have all the subtlety of G. B. Shaw at his most ornery.

That said, the theme is a great one, and so is the setting, and you can kind of imagine that he's writing about something more interesting than the idea that people will lie to make money. You can also imagine that there's some connection between the 'love' stories and the fraud stories, although that's a little harder.

But, always a but, the novel hews so close to the archetype of contemporary American fiction that it's hard to imagine what Franzen was smoking/reading when he called it greatly original. First person narrator? Check. Unwillingness or inability to grasp the importance and interest of distance between narrator and narrative? Yessir. Weird combination of improbable coincidence, static plot and un-self-consciousness? Absofreakinlutely. Sub-Hemingway prose? Indeed- Martin seems to be unaware that the English language includes the words 'which,' 'who,' 'whom,' or 'that;' that English writing is allowed to use punctuation other than the full stop; or that it is unnecessary, e.g., to stick 'I/she/he said' in the middle of every instance of direct speech.

So I imagine this ending up as a fairly dreary period piece in about 15 years, profitable movie rights or no. On the other hand, Martin could end up being our generation's Richard Yates, and go on to write two or three legitimately amazing novels, which will be rediscovered in about 40 or 50 years. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A very noir coming-of-age for a young Canadian lad.

Bobby Clark is 16 and a thief when he drops out of school, leaves his demanding girlfriend, and follows his big brother to Texas and into the shady retail jewelry business. Fronting as respectable businessmen, the brothers live high and fast, scamming and charming their way through the fast-paced plot.

In the brothers’ world, nearly everybody is on the make; the cheaters cheating each other as the chicanery goes round and round. Bobby is up to his neck in swindles and shady deals but never feels any culpability. He’s always just doing what he feels he much to keep his head above water as he gets in deeper and deeper.

Martin’s characters make their choices and take their chances, but frequently with blinders on. The brothers are too busy keeping their balance on the tightrope to look around and see where they’re headed. Their father wears internal blinders but loves them in his own (crazy) way. Only one character sees and turns her back—taking up a profession conventionally considered less moral then selling jewelry. But we know better.

All in all, a dark but fascinating tale of moral choices that doesn’t preach moral absolutes. ( )
  WildMaggie | Aug 7, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
The novel is a good, pacey and ultimately unchallenging read. Why couldn’t they just say that on the cover? “Entertaining, zippy and unchallenging — X, author of Y.”
added by jam13 | editNew York Times, Tom McCarthy (May 14, 2009)
If you ever bought overpriced jewelry from Clancy Martin, he's sorry. If you buy his novel, you won't be.
added by jlelliott | editNewsweek, Louisa Thomas (May 2, 2009)
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"Bobby Clark is just sixteen when he drops out of school to follow his big brother, Jim, into the jewelry business. Bobby idolizes Jim and is in awe of Jim's girlfriend, Lisa, the best saleswoman at the Fort Worth Deluxe Diamond Exchange." "What follows is the story of a young man's education in two of the oldest human passions, love and money. Through a dark, sharp lens, Clancy Martin captures the luxury business in all its exquisite vulgarity and outrageous fraud, finding in the diamond-and-watch trade a metaphor for the American soul at work."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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