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Closers: Great American Writers on the Art…

Closers: Great American Writers on the Art of Selling

by Mike Tronnes

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312180683, Hardcover)

Mike Tronnes promises the reader a good deal and he delivers. Closers is a collection of 30 of America's best tales about the salesperson as Everyman. The stories and selections from plays and novels explore the reasons why we are so fascinated by salespeople and why the job says so much about the American spirit. After all, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is considered one of the country's dramatic classics. Salesmen jokes--and horror stories about hustlers--abound. Almost all of us know what it's like at one time or the other to be out on a limb with a hope and a prayer.

This is fiction, but there are some lessons for any professional about the virtues of persistence and drive. Watch what you do, because at our core, we are all closers. "There's purposes we don't suspect, side paths we don't venture ... a surprise when we don't even know we need it," says the salesman in Michael Dorris's "Jeopardy." The book is for short-story fans, people who like reading the best parts of plays or just excellent prose. Besides Miller, the book features other great writers such as Thomas Wolfe, John Updike, David Mamet, Philip K. Dick, John Cheever, and Flannery O'Connor. There are also some you may not have heard of: Dorris, Thomas Bontly, and Seymour Epstein.

It's all inside the covers: the delivery, the back and forth, and finally, the handshake or nothing. Shelley Levene, the desperate real-estate huckster, cuts a deal in the selection from Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. Down and out and too old, Levene bitterly agrees to kick back a percentage to his boss for one last, hot lead. Loyalty means nothing in a bottom-line society. "Put a closer on the job," Levene pleads. The science fiction writer, Dick, portends a dark and ironic future. In "Sales Pitch," a robot salesman literally drives to death the harried space commuter, Ed Morris. "Suppose I never buy you," Morris demands of a ubiquitous robot in Dick's dismal landscape of interplanetary greed.

Other selections are as pertinent today as when they were written. Wolfe's "The Company" is a scary portrait of a company town in the days before the stock crash of 1929. The "Great Man" who founded the company exhorted that one of his machines should be in every store, shop, or business "that needs one." Wolfe's town self-destructs when inspiration and honesty become "old stuff" and the salesmen work "to create" the need, forgetting the customer in the process.

These stories can be lamenting: in corporate America, salespeople have never been strangers to working for commissions and few or no benefits. Cheever's commercial shoe salesman becomes forgotten like an old telephone book, gas light, or big yellow house. He fears that his life could be a total loss. Cheever reminds us of the reasons that closers must work so hard. --Dan Ring

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:11 -0400)

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