In light of what’s transpiring as prelude to the new administration of Trump/Pence, we thought another look at this book appropriate. Perhaps you will be among these folks in the not to distant future …
By Karl Taro Greenfeld
Greenfeld’s satirical, often cynical, novel imagines what might become of the U.S. if the most rabid proponents of unfettered capitalism have their way. Needless to say, for the vast majority of people, even, ironically, the handful of beneficiaries, the endgame is quite ugly: massive poverty, perpetual uncertainty and fear, a complete distortion of institutions and values, and a devastated environment. Yet, in the midst of the dystopian suffering and chaos, Greenfeld finds humor because, let’s face it, we can laugh at our own stupidity, as long as it is a good long arms distant.
In the not too far off future, the one-percent have gotten their way. They control all the resources, which they exploit ruthlessly. Government, services outsourced and officials reduced to vassals, kowtows to the elites’ demands. Religion functions as cheerleading flimflam. The former middle-class roams the land in search of pennies, worse off than serfs of old as they and their families have become rootless wanders. And the world both floods on the coasts and sizzles in the center, an endless wasteland of ravagement.
The novel follows the lives of three families, a mysterious motorcycle-riding woman, an ersatz preacher, and a pair of self-righteous capitalists. Jeb, Bailey, and children Tom and Vanessa, stand-ins for the middle-class, want to live decently, instead of as they do in hastily organized and as quickly rousted Ryanvilles (Paul, perhaps?). Arthur, Gemma, and daughters Ginny and Fanny, once enjoyed the lifestyle of the elite, until Arthur was exposed as a fraudulent charlatan, costing his family everything (but also revealing to them, minus Arthur, what counts in life). Richie, ex Anya, children Ronin and Jinx, are a mix of the cynical (husband), new age (wife), and neglected (children). Rounding out the cast are Pastor Roger, embodying everything most people dislike about shallow televangelists, and the Pepper sisters (Koch brothers in drag?), major capitalists who might just believe in everything they have done. And the star of the novel, the one woman who unites a community, who leads a revolution of sorts against the system, and who proves to be something more than earthbound, a mystic with some extraordinary powers that manifest in the final pages of the novel. All converge on a resurrected community in the Nevada desert as the Pepper sisters prepare to launch fracking to a whole new level of despoilment.
Surprisingly, though it might strike you as sounding a bit cartoonish, Greenfeld’s a skillful enough writer to make most of the tale compelling. Categorize this one under “best watch what you wish for.” w/c