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Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: A…

Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: A novel (1993)

by Donald Antrim

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I had heard that this was a fantastic debut novel. And the synopsis sounded intriguing. So I put it on The List. When I found a copy at my used bookstore, I picked it up. When I saw how slim it was, I thought it was perfect for National Readathon Day.

And I did finish it, in just over 2 hours. So I suppose I have to give Antrim credit for keeping me interested for 185 pages. I've walked away from other books altogether.

But this just doesn't work for me. There are shades of Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, in the absurdity here; there are shades of Mailer's Why Are We in Vietnam?, in the lack of structure (there are no chapters - it all just comes out of Pete Robinson's mouth at once). The circularity of the story, the looseness of time within it... Not sure where but I've seen that before, too. But it doesn't come together in a way that grabs me.

There's a lot to plumb here: starting with - no pun intended - the community's drainage problem; the transformations into animals; the sacrifice of a town leader, the desecration of his corpse, & Pete's attempts to make it right with ancient burial practices. Perhaps if I had read this with a class or a book club, I'd be thinking this was brilliant. But I didn't, so I don't.

Read at your risk. Chances are you have something better to do with your time.
( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
Most of the sinks in Pete Robinson’s town are clogged. Maybe that’s a sign of something. But if it is, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg because there are claymore mines planted in the public park, most of the homeowners have dug bear pits or filled moats around their homes, a blood-feud has erupted between the Bensons and the Websters, and not long ago the former mayor was drawn and quartered. Fortunately, Pete’s knowledge of medieval torture practices was very much in demand. If only the school where he had taught history hadn’t been closed. But maybe he can do something about that too. That is, if he can convince his “coelacanth” wife, Meredith, to help him in his endeavours.

This is frighteningly compelling reading, which really sounds like it ought to be an allegory for something. But probably isn’t. It just sounds like an allegory because it is so beyond the ordinary. Even while Pete reasons, in his own mind, in a ploddingly ordinary fashion. Which might also be a sign that there is something clogged in Pete Robinson.

Donald Antrim writes with assurance and panache, and just a modicum of total craziness. Okay, maybe more than just a modicum. I found myself shaking my head as I read, yet also smiling at Antrim’s hyper controlled randomness. Hard to predict, harder to pigeon-hole, this is not whatever you might have expected in a novel. Cautiously recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Dec 22, 2014 |
An anatomy of the making of a fascist, and one of the most nihilistic visions of suburbia I've ever encountered-- indeed, there is no light, no transcendent moment, in the entire book.
  Richard.Greenfield | Apr 22, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375725032, Paperback)

In his first novel, Elect Mr. Robinson For a Better World, Donald Antrim demonstrates all of the skill that critics have hailed in his subsequent work: the pitch-perfect ear, the cunning imagination, and the uncanny control of a narrative at once familiar and incandescently strange.

In Pete Robinson’s seaside suburban town, things have, well, fallen into disrepair. The voters have de-funded schools, the mayor has been drawn and quartered by an angry mob of townsmen, and Turtle Pond Park is stocked with claymore mines. Pete Robinson, third grade teacher with a 1:32 scale model of an Inquisition dungeon in his basement, wants to open a new school, and in his effort to do so he stumbles upon another idea: he needs to run for mayor. Uniquely hilarious, this novel is a horrifyingly insightful tale of a world not so very different from the one in which we live.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:02 -0400)

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