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by Lawrence Shainberg

“Wild as sin and as exceptional as the lower reaches of insanity itself.”—Norman Mailer

“One of the most perverse satires I’ve ever read.”—Jonathan Lethem

"[A] Vonnegut-worthy satire." —Joshua Glenn, Boston Globe

"A postmodern examination of the self that teases the very idea of postmodernism... that rare


“Wild as sin and as exceptional as the lower reaches of insanity itself.”—Norman Mailer

“One of the most perverse satires I’ve ever read.”—Jonathan Lethem

"[A] Vonnegut-worthy satire." —Joshua Glenn, Boston Globe

"A postmodern examination of the self that teases the very idea of postmodernism... that rare bit of lampoonery that is both humorous and smart." —Tod Goldberg, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Half DeLillo's Jack Gladney, professor of Hitler studies at College-on-the-Hill, and half Christopher Hitchens, Linchak is a model pundit for a post-9/11 age: death-obsessed, long-winded, addicted to Googling himself, and, on the sly, an inveterate nose-picker. Crust is about mindless compulsion, or the digital search for oblivion, or a comment on the jaded habits of a citizenry that's had its private domain annexed by omnipotent admen." —Zach Baron, Village Voice

The epigraph for this uproarious novel is from Marcel Duchamp: “Everything that man handles has a tendency to secrete meaning.” In this case, the secretion begins as a crust in the nose of famed novelist Walker Linchak. Its extraction leads to further secretion in the form of intellectual and spiritual insight into “the habit once called nose-picking”; a book, The Complete Book of Nasalism, a memoir about his breakthrough; an endless succession of blog entries; and a constant rush of e-mail exchanges with friends like George W. Bush, who is moved by Linchak’s passion for the habit to confess his own on Larry King Live.

Joining the stream of nose-picking research and literature that already exists on the Internet, Linchak’s secretion generates more of the same in books, the visual arts, all forms of media, academic scholarship, and medical and scientific research on crusts and their extraction.

Crust is the book that Swift would produce if he took on Information Glut.

Lawrence Shainberg is the author of two novels—One on One and Memories of Amnesia—and the nonfiction books Brain Surgeon: An Intimate View of His World and Ambivalent Zen. His fiction and journalism have appeared in Esquire, Harper’s Magazine, Tricycle, and The New York Times Magazine. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize for a monograph on Samuel Beckett, published in The Paris Review.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this postmodern satire set several years in the future, noted intellectual Walker Linchak, author of landmark books about AIDS and 9/11, finds a way out of writer's block through a surprising act: picking his nose. Linchak discovers a euphoria that provokes him to blog about the activity, and the blog, of course, becomes immensely popular. Sara, Linchak's young editor wife, catches on to the joys of rhinotillexis and convinces the media conglomerate she works for to create a mass market campaign to ride the wave of this new social phenomenon. Even George W. Bush gets in on the act; nose-picking has allowed him to be authentic and truthful in a way he couldn't be during his administration. This is a psychotically narrow pseudo-intellectual romp, filled with pop-cultural references and technology gone wild. The author makes a convincing connection between uninhibited nose picking and the proliferation of the quick fix in a media-saturated world, though Shainberg has trouble in the third act, and the novel sputters to a conclusion that's too goofy even for a book with a finger up its nose . (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews

There's something to offend everybody and entertain many in this engagingly subversive novel from the resolutely quirky author (Ambivalent Zen, 1996, etc.).

In a bizarre near-future narrative accompanied by dozens of faux-scholarly footnotes, critically acclaimed author Walker Linchak (best known for his series "The Completes" —e.g., The Complete Book of 9/11) describes the experience that makes him a cultural icon. Awakening one morning, he discovers that a substantial crust has materialized inside his right nostril. Thus is a new search for information and meaning initiated, as Walker—like Kafka's Gregor Samsa, adjusting to insecthood—undertakes to analyze the phenomenology of Nasalism: i.e., nose-picking. Both Walker's accomplished wife Sara and his brother Mickey (a condescending psychoanalyst) assume he's nuts. Yet the world of cyberspace opens its virtual arms to Walker's musings about a habit that's lauded as principled self-exploration and ridiculed as masturbatory. Our author's "nasal blogs" stimulate widespread interest and enviable fame. Sara's hesitant adoption of the practice becomes surprisingly sexually arousing. And Walker's former Yale roommate, unemployed President George W. Bush, becomes an enthusiastic acolyte, appearing on Larry King Live and emotionally endorsing a "bad habit" now being recognized as a candid admission of the human need to relax, do what feels good and not feel bad about it. It's difficult to imagine a satisfactory resolution for this defiantly eccentric fiction's dippy premise, and Shainberg settles for a flatly unconvincing open ending. Still, the poker-faced parodies of scientific methodology and Internet self-importance are fun (it'sabout time somebody lampooned Wikipedia), and it's oddly ingratiating to hear soon-to-be-ex-President Bush enumerating his own failings rather than leaving the job to amateurs of all persuasions.

Somewhat limp and intermittently exceedingly arch. But a case can be made for listing the book among the most amusing fiction picks for fall.

Product Details

Two Dollar Radio
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Shainberg's books include Ambivalent Zen, Brain Surgeon: An Intimate View of His World, and the novels Memories of Amnesia and One on One. He has had numerous essays published in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Tricycle, The Village Voice, Evergreen, and a Pushcart Prize-winning monograph on Samuel Beckett published in the Paris Review.

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