Flatscreen: A Novel

( 2 )

Overview

Flatscreen tells the story of Eli Schwartz as he endures the loss of his home, the indifference of his parents, the success of his older brother, and the cruel and frequent dismissal of the opposite sex. He is a loser par excellence—pasty, soft, and high—who struggles to become a new person in a world where nothing is new.

Into this scene of apathy rolls Seymour J. Kahn. Former star of the small screen and current paraplegic sex addict, Kahn has purchased Eli’s old family home. ...

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Flatscreen: A Novel

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Overview

Flatscreen tells the story of Eli Schwartz as he endures the loss of his home, the indifference of his parents, the success of his older brother, and the cruel and frequent dismissal of the opposite sex. He is a loser par excellence—pasty, soft, and high—who struggles to become a new person in a world where nothing is new.

Into this scene of apathy rolls Seymour J. Kahn. Former star of the small screen and current paraplegic sex addict, Kahn has purchased Eli’s old family home. The two begin a dangerous friendship, one that distracts from their circumstances but speeds their descent into utter debasement and, inevitably, YouTube stardom.

By story’s end, through unlikely acts of courage and kindness, roles will be reversed, reputations resurrected, and charges (hopefully) dropped. Adam Wilson writes mischief that moves the heart, and Flatscreen marks the wondrous debut of a truth-telling comic voice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Well past high school and still living off the “Daddy Guilt Fund,” Eli Schwartz, the narrator of this rollicking debut novel, is the classic couch-bound failure-to-launch whiling away his 20s “denying real time, like an anthropologist attempting to study a distant, extinct species, wondering what went wrong.” Eli’s simple passions—pop culture, cooking, and watching the Food Network—render his life a pleasant stupor suddenly interrupted when his mother sells the house to one “Seymour J. Kahn: actor, cripple.” The once accomplished and beloved but now elderly and wheelchair-bound Seymour acts as a time-lapsed version of Eli (“I recognize my own kind,” he says upon meeting him). And under the old man’s terrible tutelage, Eli awakens to a wholly incongruous lifestyle of hillbilly heroin and gunplay. Comedy and pathos abound in Seymour’s absurdist world, and in Eli’s fantasies of a better life that come in the form of hilariously familiar cinematic scenarios in which, for instance, the screwup becomes the star chef. Fans of Jack Pendarvis and Sam Lipsyte will enjoy Wilson’s fresh, fantastical perspective and the ways in which his vessel, Eli, proves too wry to allow the clichés to play out. Agent: Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Mar.)
New Yorker
“…immensely satisfying … Wilson has created a thoroughly lovable slacker, part hilarious, part poignant.”
Vanity Fair
“Comic novelist Adam Wilson makes his swaggering debut in Flatscreen.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Eli’s narration in Flatscreen is darkly funny…”
Daily Beast
“Wilson’s prose is original and arresting … he approaches, in his loftier moments, the tortured grace of George Saunders. This is Cheever on Xanax, or maybe lithium, but the voice is still there; sardonic, hilarious, and very much of our time. Wilson is a writer to watch.”
Details
“Five things we emphatically endorse this month … a laugh-out-loud literary debut …”
BookForum
“If you smashed The Catcher in the Rye into Jesus’ Son, you might have something quite close to Flatscreen, a narrative of wayward youth for our beguiled new century on the brink of a discovery we might not welcome.”
New York Post
“A fine debut from Wilson.”
Time Out New York
“Wilson gives us something depressingly hilarious and undeniably real....Low-level angst is still angst, and Wilson captures it perfectly.”
Baltimore Sun
‘’…hilarious and edgy…”
Barnes and Noble Review
“Perverse, subversive, and hilariously outrageous, the book delivers memorable characters, a rollicking plot, and a new voice that comes across as anything but flat.”
Forward
“Wilson expertly crafts explosively hilarious scenes ranging from a Viagra/Oxycontin/cocaine-driven meltdown during a high school football game to the complete destruction of what might have been a reasonably pleasant Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends.”
Jewish Book Council
“Wilson’s sharp, heartrending prose is captivating and comically laced, and an ultimately satisfying read.”
L Magazine
“Wilson pulls you in with smart, self-deprecating comedy, and you never see the sting that’s coming. Through the seemingly-familiar prism of a disaffected young man wandering through his Massachusetts hometown, Wilson examines questions of class, intimacy, and our relationship to the media that surrounds us every day.”
Flavorwire
“Sure, it’s another chubby stoner loser protagonist who is forced to turn into a real person when he gets irritating real-world problems dumped on his lap, but Adam Wilson does it with special aplomb.”
Booklist (starred review)
“An auspicious debut that promises, in Wilson, a standout addition to a new generation of writers.”
Tom Perrotta
Flatscreen is a bleakly funny and totally outrageous debut from an exciting new writer. Adam Wilson has written the slacker novel to end all slacker novels.”
Gary Shteyngart
“OMFG, I nearly up and died from laughter when I read Flatscreen. This is the novel that every young turk will be reading on their way to a job they hate and are in fact too smart for.”
Heidi Julavits
“Adam Wilson delivers rapid fire prose that is distinctively intelligent, hilarious, artful, and perverse. While never failing to entertain, Flatscreen stealthily exposes the psychic abyss that haunts every fit of laughter. A dark jewel of a book.”
Darin Strauss
Flatscreen is the sort of novel we’ve heard nobody is able to write anymore: erudite and hilarious, raunchy and topical, and flat-out fun. Nicholson Baker meets Barthleme with a dash of Nabokov….[B]uy this altogether magical book.”
Deb Olin Unferth
“Adam Wilson struts into that dark destination of post-high-school misery and emerges with a story full of energy and hilarity and emotion. What a great read!”
Sam Lipsyte
“Adam Wilson is a gutsy, funny, and often beautiful writer, and Flatscreen is one of the most hilarious and commanding debuts I’ve read in a long time.”
Jami Attenberg
“[Wilson’s] prose is relentless, and his world view is on fire. Flatscreen is a wickedly funny, absurdly engaging debut. I’d recommend it for fans of Sam Lipsyte and anyone looking for an unconventional coming-of-age story.”
New Yorker
"…immensely satisfying … Wilson has created a thoroughly lovable slacker, part hilarious, part poignant."
Vanity Fair
"Comic novelist Adam Wilson makes his swaggering debut in Flatscreen."
Entertainment Weekly
"Eli’s narration in Flatscreen is darkly funny…"
Daily Beast
"Wilson’s prose is original and arresting … he approaches, in his loftier moments, the tortured grace of George Saunders. This is Cheever on Xanax, or maybe lithium, but the voice is still there; sardonic, hilarious, and very much of our time. Wilson is a writer to watch."
Details
"Five things we emphatically endorse this month … a laugh-out-loud literary debut …"
BookForum
"If you smashed The Catcher in the Rye into Jesus’ Son, you might have something quite close to Flatscreen, a narrative of wayward youth for our beguiled new century on the brink of a discovery we might not welcome."
New York Post
"A fine debut from Wilson."
Time Out New York
"Wilson gives us something depressingly hilarious and undeniably real....Low-level angst is still angst, and Wilson captures it perfectly."
Baltimore Sun
‘’…hilarious and edgy…"
Forward
"Wilson expertly crafts explosively hilarious scenes ranging from a Viagra/Oxycontin/cocaine-driven meltdown during a high school football game to the complete destruction of what might have been a reasonably pleasant Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends."
Jewish Book Council
"Wilson’s sharp, heartrending prose is captivating and comically laced, and an ultimately satisfying read."
L Magazine
"Wilson pulls you in with smart, self-deprecating comedy, and you never see the sting that’s coming. Through the seemingly-familiar prism of a disaffected young man wandering through his Massachusetts hometown, Wilson examines questions of class, intimacy, and our relationship to the media that surrounds us every day."
Flavorwire
"Sure, it’s another chubby stoner loser protagonist who is forced to turn into a real person when he gets irritating real-world problems dumped on his lap, but Adam Wilson does it with special aplomb."
Booklist
"An auspicious debut that promises, in Wilson, a standout addition to a new generation of writers."
Tom Perrotta
"Flatscreen is a bleakly funny and totally outrageous debut from an exciting new writer. Adam Wilson has written the slacker novel to end all slacker novels."
Gary Shteyngart
"OMFG, I nearly up and died from laughter when I read Flatscreen. This is the novel that every young turk will be reading on their way to a job they hate and are in fact too smart for."
Heidi Julavits
"Adam Wilson delivers rapid fire prose that is distinctively intelligent, hilarious, artful, and perverse. While never failing to entertain, Flatscreen stealthily exposes the psychic abyss that haunts every fit of laughter. A dark jewel of a book."
Darin Strauss
"Flatscreen is the sort of novel we’ve heard nobody is able to write anymore: erudite and hilarious, raunchy and topical, and flat-out fun. Nicholson Baker meets Barthleme with a dash of Nabokov….[B]uy this altogether magical book."
Deb Olin Unferth
"Adam Wilson struts into that dark destination of post-high-school misery and emerges with a story full of energy and hilarity and emotion. What a great read!"
Sam Lipsyte
"Adam Wilson is a gutsy, funny, and often beautiful writer, and Flatscreen is one of the most hilarious and commanding debuts I’ve read in a long time."
Jami Attenberg
"[Wilson’s] prose is relentless, and his world view is on fire. Flatscreen is a wickedly funny, absurdly engaging debut. I’d recommend it for fans of Sam Lipsyte and anyone looking for an unconventional coming-of-age story."
Kirkus Reviews
A frequently funny subversion of the coming-of-age story, though there's a pervasive sadness underlying the comic. This promising debut novel sustains itself through the strength of its voice--the first-person narration of Eli Schwartz and the distinctive voice of author Wilson. A pudgy, jobless, stay-at-home 20-year-old with a passion for cooking and an ambivalence toward sex, Eli describes himself as "a glorified townie without the glory. No rugged good looks or blue-collar gas-station-employee pride. No fading memory of a football career. No greaser girlfriend, legs thick and strong like the twin pistons on my (nonexistent) restored Camaro." Eli might easily be described as a loser and a stoner, but the novel seduces the reader into identifying with him, caring about him, rather than treating him (as some others do) as an object of ridicule. "I'm a good soul who's gone a bit off the deep end," he explains. His well-to-do father left his mother for a second marriage and family and took his standard of living with him. His older brother left for college, keeping Eli in a claustrophobic relationship with the mother who encourages it (at least until she also discovers life beyond Eli and threatens to leave as well). The plot's pivotal encounter involves Seymour Kahn, a veteran actor whose roles have diminished because he's in a wheelchair but whose sexual appetite remains omnivorous. Kahn enters Eli's life as a surrogate father, potential lover, sexual procurer and/or drug buddy, after he becomes interested in buying the family home that Eli's mother needs to sell. The repressed, apathetic Eli and the profane, uninhibited Kahn make for an odd couple, though Eli acknowledges, "I'm afraid of becoming Kahn, but part of me knows I'm already Kahn, that he's the part of me I want to keep away from the world. I think Kahn might be in love with me." Though the voice is strong and the characters indelible, the author rejects the resolution of a typical rite of passage. Instead, it doesn't offer much resolution at all (except for Kahn), as Eli conjures 20 possible endings, committing to none. A book with lots of laughs that's also very bleak.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062090331
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/21/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 344,121
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Wilson is the author of the novel Flatscreen, a National Jewish Book Award finalist. His stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, and The Best American Short Stories, among many other publications. In 2012 he received the Terry Southern Prize, which recognizes "wit, panache, and sprezzatura" in work published by The Paris Review. He teaches creative writing at New York University and lives in Brooklyn.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2012

    a likeable Bukowski

    Wilson's voice is Bukowski-esque, but there is far more substance, plot development, and character depth in this novel than anything I've read by Bukowksi. Adam Wilson has a real gem here. I loved this book. Eli is a dead-beat, lazy pothead, but readers can't help but to care about him. I'd recommend this book to the younger crowd, and I'll definitely be nagging my friends to read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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