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Customer Service

by Benoit Duteurtre, Bruce Benderson (Translator)
 

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In this devilish satire by one of France's most audacious social commentators, a man gets a state-of-the-art cellphone that, in spite of himself, he falls in love with. It really does seem as if it's going to make his life easier.

Except then he loses it. Luckily, he's a preferred customer, which is supposed to make it easy

Overview

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In this devilish satire by one of France's most audacious social commentators, a man gets a state-of-the-art cellphone that, in spite of himself, he falls in love with. It really does seem as if it's going to make his life easier.

Except then he loses it. Luckily, he's a preferred customer, which is supposed to make it easy for him to get a replacement.

And so begins a long, fiendish descent down the rabbit hole known as "customer service." But our hero is determined to stay on the line...to outwit the phone menus...to outwait the hold muzak...to talk to the head of customer service, who wrote to him that all he needed to do was call, and he would be able to get bak that time-saving convenience that made his life so much simpler...

The Contemporary Art of the Novella series is designed to highlight work by major authors from around the world. In most instances, as with Imre Kertész, it showcases work never before published; in others, books are reprised that should never have gone out of print. It is intended that the series feature many well-known authors and some exciting new discoveries. And as with the original series, The Art of the Novella, each book is a beautifully packaged and inexpensive volume meant to celebrate the form and its practitioners.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"…the recent financial collapse helps make this novella more relevant than ever. [It] is an entertaining book and yet another example of the great work Melville House is doing in their Contemporary Art of the Novella series."
Three Percent

Praise for Benoît Duteurtre's The Little Girl and The Cigarette

"What I admire most about The Little Girl and the Cigarette: the clarity with which this novel unmasks the fundamental stupidity of our modern world; the black humor that transforms horror into a fascinating danse macabre."
—Milan Kundera

"(Duteurtre) is a cultural bomb thrower."
International Herald Tribune

"The novel goes down swinging—it gets its excited jabs in at everything from the nanny state to the way that children rule the adult world like tiny tyrants."
—Paul Constant, The Stranger

"A fascinating...fable of the terrifying power of public opinion."
Bookslut

"Duteurtre suggests that our obsession with children is pure narcissism—we outlaw our freedoms not because we love children but because we want to be them. And when we rebel, we do it because we long for the reassurance that having boundaries gives. It is maddening to watch this bureaucrat refuse to acknowledge his own childish behavior—like puffing secretly upstairs in a relative's nonsmoking home—as he rails against everyone else. On one hand, you empathize with his fight for personal liberties. On the other, you wish he'd just grow up and behave. Ultimately, he comes off as whiny, self-absorbed and unsympathetic. But this is precisely the point: We can see him no other way."
—Karrie Higgins, The Los Angeles Times

"As an unfiltered hit of misanthropy, the book goes down strong and bitter, leaving behind a craving for more."
—David Ng, The Village Voice

"How did a small French novel beat the odds to become a quiet cult hit in Chicago?"
Time Out Chicago

"Both funny and unsettling."
Chicago Reader

"A joy to read, as much as it is alarming."
Le Monde

Publishers Weekly

The unnamed narrator in Duteurtre's unrewardingly whiny novella has something to get off his chest-customer service in the computer age is, it seems, a shambles. Telephones are answered by machines, high school kids are technology gurus, airlines are inflexible, and don't even get him started on the trouble of remembering PINs and passwords. The ensuing 74-page rant takes this frustrated 40-something narrator through all of these experiences and more, as he riffs on all that is wrong with the world today while trying to finish a magazine assignment and change his cell phone plan. The thin plot involves the narrator trying to discover whether the cell phone company's director of customer service actually exists. The catalogue of frustrations will be familiar to everyone, but the many pages of grousing are not cathartic, funny or enlightening. It's like Andy Rooney wrote a French novella. (Sept.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781933633527
Publisher:
Melville House Publishing
Publication date:
07/01/2008
Series:
Contemporary Art of the Novella Series
Pages:
100
Sales rank:
1,371,139
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

An anarchic and controversial figure in France, Benoît Duteurtre became a writer after Samuel Beckett praised his early work. Duteurtre went on to write 10 novels and win the coveted Prix Medici, and has been acclaimed by Milan Kundera and media philosopher Guy Dubord alike. The great-grandson of French President René Coty, Duteurtre is also the host of his own TV talk show, “Astonish Me, Benoit." His work has been translated into thirteen languages. This is his first book to be translated into English.

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