Show World: A Novel by Wilton Barnhardt, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Show World

Show World

by Wilton Barnhardt

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Samantha Flint flees the Midwest for Smith College to shake her past, to invent a future she can live with. Yet even as each new city takes her to fresh heights of power and wealth, everything Sam wants seems to elude her--she finds her dreams have turned against her.


Samantha Flint flees the Midwest for Smith College to shake her past, to invent a future she can live with. Yet even as each new city takes her to fresh heights of power and wealth, everything Sam wants seems to elude her--she finds her dreams have turned against her.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After the exuberant Emma Who Saved My Life and the 772-page blockbuster Gospel, Barnhardt has trimmed his sails somewhat in a novel that, despite several allusions to Mary McCarthy's The Group, is closer in spirit to Valley of the Dolls. In the late 1970s, young Samantha Flint is the classic exiled Midwesterner fleeing from her boat-salesman father and Missouri background for cloistered Smith College. There she meets Mimi Mohr, who is fashionable, Jewish, sophisticatedeverything the Show Me state is not. Samantha, of course, is permanently smitten. The novel follows the two women through Smith and then through Reagan-era America. Mimi, with her art degree, wants to own a gallery but ends up managing stars in Hollywood. Samantha abandons her writerly aspirations to become legislative director to Senator Proctor, a curmudgeonly but lovable moderate Republican who quotes Shelley and, unfortunately, retires soon after Samantha goes to work for him. He's followed by reactionary "Family" Frank Shanker. Desperately clinging to her position with Shanker, Samantha gets hooked on booze and pills and even helps Shanker turn his son's suicide into a political stunt. Finally, in revulsion, she exchanges D.C. for L.A., where high-flying Mimi takes her in tow. Popping speed to get through her day, Samantha marries the gay singer of a teeny-bopper band to provide him cover, but the lid is obviously going to come off that match soon. Can Sam and Mimi, whose agency sponsors the singer, survive the fallout? Barnhardt might have been trying to produce an X-ray of the American spirit in this cautionary tale. What he has actually written is a page-turning, pills-and-sex saga whose last page will bring readers to the brink of overdose. (July)
Library Journal
Meet Samantha Flint, Gen X-er, dysfunctional family survivor, Smith College graduate, aspiring writer, and publicist. Unable to find a suitable job in New York, she moves to D.C. and takes a job with a senior senator who promptly retires. She then attaches herself to the staff of Senator "Family" Frank Shanker, whom she less than admires. After an affair with a fellow staffer, a stab at sabotaging said senator, and a recognition of her growing alcoholism, Samantha heads for Hollywood to find herself and her old school chum Mimi. Her story is not a happy one. Confronted with a string of moral compromises she seems incapable of deflecting, Samantha careens through life without direction or purpose to a seamy, drug-induced end. Barnhardt (Emma Who Saved My Life, LJ 6/1/89) paints an all-too-familiar picture of a quest for identity gone wrong in Tinseltown. We should feel great sadness for Samantha, but both the characterizations and plot are so one-dimensional that the reader is just left feeling vaguely depressed. Not recommended.--Susan G. Clifford, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA
Joy Dickinson
Anyone who came of age during the 1970s will thoroughly identify with and relish Wilton Barnhardt's latest, Show World….Sharp characterization and deft wit ring as strong as ever in this new book…eminently memorable.
Dallas Morning News
Kirkus Reviews
The story of a hopeful young woman's disillusioning descent through the worlds of academe, politics, and film makes for a curious hybrid that falls awkwardly between the romantic comedy of Barnhardt's ingratiating first novel (Emma Who Saved My Life, 1989) and the baroque overkill that flattened his second (Gospel, 1993) Samantha Flint (whose notebooks record her story) arrives at Smith College in 1978 from Missouri, a self-conscious thorn among the pampered, whiny roses whose company she seeks. Sam plans to write "the Great American Working Woman's Novel," but instead drifts into the orbit of flamboyant "Mimi" Mohr, a go-getter whoþll eventually prosper as a "manager" of movie stars' careers. After college, Sam works for a moderate Republican Senator, then joins the staff of his calculating reactionary colleague (whom she double-crosses when the sleazy Senator Shanker uses his son's suicide for political gain). Just ahead are flings with alcohol, psychoanalysis, marriage to a "gay boytoy" actor who's done in by his fondness for "kinky sexplay," and exploratory lesbian sexþall as part of a numbed quest for "something passionate that would obliterate the drudgery, the wearisome effort her life had become." Barnhardt's prose seldom rises to subtler or more specific levels, and his lumpy plot unwisely evokes memories of both Candy and Valley of the Dolls; Sam isn't a sufficiently credible or interesting character. There are clever inventions (the lyrics to the hit single "Inside You" are a rude treat) and a few vivid scenes (Sam's sad-funny reunion with her father, living in TV-drugged bliss with his middle-aged girlfriend at the Paradise Acres trailer park is a comic gem).But the novel takes aim at too many easy targets and never reconciles its campy melodrama with the coming-of-age story weþre prepared to expect. Barnhardt is better than this. (Author tour)

Product Details

Picador USA
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6.15(w) x 9.24(h) x 0.92(d)

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