American Subversive

( 14 )

Overview

Aidan Cole and his friends are a band of savvy?if cynical?New York journalists and bloggers, thriving at the intersection of media and celebrity. They meet at loft parties and dive bars, talking of scoops and page views, sexual adventures and new restaurants. And then, without warning, a bomb rips through a deserted midtown office tower, and Aidan?s life will never be the same.

Four days later, with no arrests and a city on edge, an anonymous e-mail arrives in Aidan?s inbox. ...

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American Subversive: A Novel

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Overview

Aidan Cole and his friends are a band of savvy—if cynical—New York journalists and bloggers, thriving at the intersection of media and celebrity. They meet at loft parties and dive bars, talking of scoops and page views, sexual adventures and new restaurants. And then, without warning, a bomb rips through a deserted midtown office tower, and Aidan’s life will never be the same.

Four days later, with no arrests and a city on edge, an anonymous e-mail arrives in Aidan’s inbox. Attached is the photograph of an attractive young white woman, along with a chilling message: “This is Paige Roderick. She’s the one responsible.”

An astonishing debut novel, American Subversive is a “genuinely thrilling thriller” (NewYorker.com) as well as “an exploration of what motivates radicalism in an age of disillusion” (The New York Times Book Review).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A triumphant work of fiction.”—Associated Press

“A rare novel that gets the moment even as we’re living it… A fast-paced, engaging novel of pop-culture and big ideas, authentically subversive, and thoroughly American.”—The Daily Beast

“[A] smart, edgy, suspenseful first novel… Goodwillie evokes life underground like a master—the tradecraft, the fraught group dynamics, the combination of discipline and paranoia, the longing for normality.”—Kirkus

Malena Watrous
…hip and quick-paced…[Goodwillie] excels at jet-black social satire in a style reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis…[he] has created two flawed yet sympathetic main characters, with distinct and memorable voices. In Aidan's voice, he has written a scathing and hilarious indictment of our bizarre moment in time, complete with jaded socialites, quasi-celebrities and the media that feed off them and one another. And Paige is a strong and memorable female heroine, whose sincerity keeps the novel from being a farce.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In Goodwillie’s debut novel (after his memoir, Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time), an incisive depiction of radicalism’s seductive roots, the central characters are a good girl gone bad and a would-be journalist turned blogger who wants to do good. Paige Roderick, laid off from her think tank job and devastated by the Iraq War death of her beloved brother, is an easy mark for a shadowy cabal of home-grown terrorists who recruit her from the ranks of weekend environmental warriors. Separately, Aidan Cole, a failed journalism student turned Manhattan gossip blogger, is drawn into her radical orbit (and into a romance) by a phantom from America’s radical past: a former member of the Weather Underground. Part political thriller and part on-the-run love story, Goodwillie’s glimpse of the lapsed idealism that might be fueling America’s subversive underground falls somewhere between Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama and John Updike’s Terrorist. The mix of mocking the jaded hip—the Gawker-like blogging empire that Aidan works for serves as a frequent punching bag—and exploring cultural and social unrest results in a comic and unsettling two-pronged dissection of a subset of contemporary America. (Apr.)
Library Journal
After the bombing of a New York City office tower in 2010, jaded thirty something "professional blogger" Aidan Cole receives a mysterious email containing a picture of a striking young woman named Paige Roderick and the text, "She's the one responsible…." The message galvanizes him politically and romantically, and Aidan sets out to locate Paige, eventually tracking her to a Vermont town where she's part of a small ecoterrorist cell she joined out of anger over her brother's death in Iraq. Confronted with the picture, she realizes that she's been betrayed and sets about exposing the group. Paige winds up at Aidan's New York apartment, where her mere presence makes him a not altogether unwilling accessory to terrorism; before they can post their exposé, they're framed by the group and find themselves on the run. VERDICT Combining biting comedy and deep seriousness and boasting literary antecedents ranging from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Tom Wolfe to Jay McInerney, first novelist Goodwillie (Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time) offers a remarkable tale of one man's search for meaning and purpose beyond the superficialities of contemporary urban life that will have wide appeal.—Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, North Andover, MA
Kirkus Reviews
He's a cynical blogger; she's an idealistic eco-warrior (or eco-terrorist, depending). Eventually their worlds collide in this smart, edgy, suspenseful first novel from the author of the memoir Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (2006). The alternating narrators are 30-somethings Aidan Cole and Paige Roderick. Aidan is part of the Manhattan social whirl, blogging by day, partying by night; his girlfriend Cressida is a New York Times reporter. The embodiment of a shallow, parasitical culture, Aidan blogs professionally, debunking the Fourth Estate in a mildly subversive way. The true subversive, and considerably more interesting character, is Paige, a North Carolinian who once worked for a Washington think tank. What radicalized her was the death of her beloved brother Bobby, a National Guard member, killed by friendly fire in Iraq. She joined some back-to-the-landers in her home state before being recruited by the charismatic Keith Sutter to work on Actions exposing corrupt energy companies. The Movement is a network of small cells; they live in safe houses. As the novel opens, they have just detonated a large bomb in a Manhattan building housing a shady oil company. No casualties-they avoid them studiously-but the explosion has rattled the city. Aidan receives an anonymous e-mail, linking Paige to the Action; just her photo (she's gorgeous) and name. Curiosity piqued, he follows the trail to Vermont, where they have a brief confrontation. Goodwillie evokes life underground like a master-the tradecraft, the fraught group dynamics, the combination of discipline and paranoia, the longing for normality. Then he stumbles. Paige defects after glimpsing Keith's pride and joy, a shrapnel-packedbomb. That's credible; what follows when she tracks Aidan down in New York is not. He has an instant conversion, passing up the scoop of a lifetime to join Paige underground and prevent Keith's upcoming Action. Further problems develop when the identity of that anonymous e-mailer is revealed, prompting clunky exposition that interrupts the climax. Despite the missteps, there's abundant promise here.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439157060
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 4/5/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 786,815
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

David Goodwillie is the author of the novel American Subversive, a New York Times Notable Book of 2010, and the acclaimed memoir Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. He has also played professional baseball, worked as a private investigator, and was an expert at Sotheby's auction house. A graduate of Kenyon College, he lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2010

    Wow - what exceptional writing

    I was shocked to read such a wonderful story. His style is so eloquent and so right now!

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  • Posted March 31, 2010

    Gripping and timely debut

    As you might expect from a political thriller, American Subversive is fast paced, gripping and a serious page turner. Now, I'm not a thriller kind of girl but this book is un-freaking-believable. Seriously. The concept is so timely (blogging and terrorism) and I actually found it easy to relate to the main characters (Goodwillie writes from the perspective of a woman - how cool is that?).

    The relationship between said characters (two narrators: blogger and terrorist) is complicated but innocent, with intertwining facets you find yourself constantly thinking about long after the final page.

    Aidan, failed journalism student turned gossip blogger on a site that eerily resembles Gawker, is both completely unlikeable (but with good intentions) and the kind of protagonist you root for from beginning to end. Paige, a very sad but very determined eco-terrorist is responsible for turning 2010 Manhattan into chaos. It's horribly familiar to those of us who lived through 9/11, which makes it a relevant and necessary read.

    As a fun side note, I hear Aidan's blog (Roorback.com) is actually being turned into a real site... stay tuned..

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