The Normals: A Novel

The Normals: A Novel

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by David Gilbert

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Fast-paced...Gilbert writes in the vein of Vonnegut, Heller and Kesey, updated for the 21st century.-Publishers WeeklySee more details below


Fast-paced...Gilbert writes in the vein of Vonnegut, Heller and Kesey, updated for the 21st century.-Publishers Weekly

Editorial Reviews

Laura Miller
The binding agent for the novel is, surprisingly, Billy himself. He may be a walking grab bag of pop culture references and postmodern musings; he may harbor a secret core of weepy sentimentality (he peeks into the others' rooms late at night because he finds the sight of a sleeping person ''the sweetest saddest thing''); and he may be not quite likable, even if he doesn't merit the self-loathing in which he marinates. But despite all these drawbacks, Billy is real: a living, breathing, vexing (and entirely believable) human being.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Billy Schine is a wanted man, in the worst possible way. A glum, rudderless 28-year-old Harvard grad, he has defaulted on his student loan, and the brutish collection agency that has taken over his debt is not playing around. To escape, Billy quits his temp job and hightails it out of Manhattan to be a guinea pig in an experimental drug trial. As the title of Gilbert's witty first novel suggests, Billy is part of a healthy control group used to ferret out the possible side effects of an anti-psychotic. Gilbert, author of the short story collection Remote Feed, surrounds Billy with an oddball cast of normals, including an aspiring actor who practices his craft by faking symptoms and an oversexed femme fatale on a very self-involved quest. But the book's most compelling action is interior, as Billy grapples with his place in life and tries to come to terms with his parents' kamikaze love for each other. Fast-paced and winningly insouciant if sometimes self-consciously showy, this is a fine debut that uses humor to tackle some very serious issues, including questions of medical ethics, the search for grace and the meaning of love. Agent, Bill Clegg at Burnes & Clegg. 5-city author tour. (Oct.) Forecast: Gilbert writes in the vein of Vonnegut, Heller and Kesey, updated for the 21st century there's cult sales potential here, helped along by the great title. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A meandering first novel tracks the experiences of participants in a drug story. The two-week study, in August 1999, is seen through the eyes of narrator Billy Schine, a 28-year-old Harvard graduate with a problem: He owes sixty grand in student loan repayments, and Ragnar is hot on his trail in Manhattan. Billy has never met Ragnar, the collection agency guy, but he has lurid fantasies about him. It's time to skip town, so feckless Billy abandons his live-in girlfriend Sally and his temp job as a word processor and heads upstate to the medical research center. There, along with other "normals" (healthy, allergy-free types), he will be tested for reactions to an anti-psychotic drug. But where is the novel headed? Will it be a medical thriller? There's only a taste of that, at the end. Black comedy? There's sophomoric kidding around, but that doesn't qualify. How about Billy's existential drama? He's an outsider and underachiever, the product of parents who doted solely on each other; now his mother has Alzheimer's and his father is arranging for them to die together on their wedding anniversary. Yet Billy remains a lightweight. When the study is over and he has the chance to be the subject of an off-the-books, potentially lethal experiment, Billy jumps at it. Why? He has no good answer. By default, then, this is a novel about some guys hanging out: swallowing their pills, giving their blood, swapping war stories of life on the guinea-pig circuit, and watching way too much television. For good measure, Gilbert (the collection Remote Feed, 1998) throws in a delusional roommate subdued by security; some unlikely animal rights activists; and a lone female patient, Gretchen, who makes full useof all the available men. Her mission statement, incidentally, makes more sense than anything Billy has to say for himself. Gilbert's intelligence and verbal dexterity don't count for much, unharnessed to theme or plot. Agent: Jessica Craig/Burnes & Clegg

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Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
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