The Swing Voter of Staten Island

( 3 )

Overview

“Nersesian’s extravagantly imagined dystopia relies—as did those in Philip Roth’s Plot Against America and Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union—on an alternate, counterfactual history.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Combining sci-fi space/time-warping, Unabomber-style political ranting and an overall air of goose-bump paranoia, this is one turbo-charged trip. . . . A sharp, strange read: Imagine ...

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The Swing Voter of Staten Island

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Overview

“Nersesian’s extravagantly imagined dystopia relies—as did those in Philip Roth’s Plot Against America and Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union—on an alternate, counterfactual history.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Combining sci-fi space/time-warping, Unabomber-style political ranting and an overall air of goose-bump paranoia, this is one turbo-charged trip. . . . A sharp, strange read: Imagine William Burroughs and Philip K. Dick sharing a needle.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Brilliant.”—Time Out New York

Arthur Nersesian’s six previous novels (including The Fuck-Up, MTV/Pocket Books, which has sold over 100,000 copies) have focused on the tragicomedy of fin de siècle New York City. Here, in his boldest novel to date, Nersesian has broken through into a new landscape that at once fuses the real with the surreal, the psychological with the psychedelic. He lives in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Nersesian has carved out his niche with novels like The Fuck Upand Unlubricatedabout New Yorkers trapped in their own ugly lives. His sixth is similarly sordid but uncharacteristically fantastical. Over the course of a week in a counterfactual 1980, amnesiac protagonist Uli must navigate a reproduction of New York City built in Nevada after the original was destroyed. He quickly learns that the city is divided into territories run by Piggers and Crappers ("political parties, or gangs") and he has been programmed to assassinate the Crapper candidate for mayor. Manhattan and Brooklyn belong to Crappers, the Bronx and Queens are held by Piggers; Staten Island is independent, and thus constitutes the swing vote in the mayoral and-more importantly-presidential elections. "Rescue City" consists of smaller, cheaper versions of the original: bridges are made of rotten boards, famous landmarks are redubbed corrupt versions of their real names (e.g., Rock and Filler Center for Rockefeller Center and Onion Square for Union Square), and the East River suffers from a clogged drain. Uli mingles with a wide array of desperate characters while trying to uncover his identity and determine what, if anything, he should be fighting for. Nersesian's novel is exceptionally bleak and bewildering, and his fans would expect nothing less. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

All Uli knows is that he's supposed to shoot Dropt outside Cooper Union, then get back to Kennedy to catch the next flight out. As he makes his way to Cooper Union, however, his memory starts coming back to him, and he realizes he's not in New York City, but Rescue City of New York, NV. Nersesian (Chinese Takeout) builds an alternative world circa 1981, in which Nixon served out his term, the Vietnam War still rages, and Rescue City-built to house refugees and dissidents-is playing host to a political battle. Rival gangs/parties the Crappers and the Piggies, which control different boroughs, both want to claim the mayoral office. Uli, en route to Cooper Union, meets Mallory, a Crapper operative, and ends up being chased by Piggies. A mysterious blond man saves his life and tells him to meet at Rock & Filler Center. Uli eventually ends up at Crapper Headquarters, where he learns that the man who controls Staten Island, Raftique, is the swing vote in the presidential election; Uli is assigned to convince Raftique to vote for Ronald Reagan. If all this sounds convoluted, it is: Uli begins with a blank slate, and gradually things get filled in. With plenty of puns on New York City names and characters, this cleverly written alternatives future tale comes into focus but lacks the strong characterization that made Nersesian's previous works so powerful. Recommended for larger collections.
—Joshua Cohen

Kirkus Reviews
Having first dazzled Weird-Lit ultra-hipsters with The Fuck-Up in 1997, Nersesian (Unlubricated, 2004, etc.) rounds out a busy decade with a dystopian epic. Combining sci-fi space/time-warping, Unabomber-style political ranting and an overall air of goose-bump paranoia, this is one turbo-charged trip through a version of the 1980s no one could love. A gumbo of Weather Underground, S.L.A. and Black Panther droogies take over New York City in the '70s, splashing dirty bombs helter-skelter. Manhattan basically kaput, the federal government designates a former "military simulation city," a radioactive desert outside Vegas, as the New New York. The geographic layout's a convincing copy, but landmark names are corrupted: "Vampire Stake Building," "Onion Square," "Rock & Filler Center." And the Gangs of New York rule, with the Boroughs divided between Piggers (or We the Peoplers) and Crappers (All Created Equalers), political parties at mutual knifepoint. Into this bedlam drops protagonist Uli, a Manchurian Candidate knock-off programmed by mysterious nefarious forces to assassinate Dropt, a rival candidate to Pigger Mayor Shub. Hizzonner spouts masterful Orwellian jive ("He's intractable in a business that requires a lot of tractoring!"), and the citizens, when not overdosing on creepy new drugs, fantasize returning to the real Manhattan. But much to the fury of Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg, Ronald Reagan is running for re-election. If Staten Island's borough president allies with the national Democrats and Reagan loses, nobody gets to go back, because it's only budget-crunching Ronnie who wants to deep-six the fake New York. The loony-tune plot merely serves as a launch pad for Nersesian'smeditations on Vietnam-era military insanity, big-city frenzy and the Tower of Babel capacities of language. A sharp, strange read: Imagine William Burroughs and Philip K. Dick sharing a needle.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933354347
  • Publisher: Akashic Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Series: Akashic Urban Surreal Series Series , #1
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 7.08 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author


Arthur Nersesian is the author of eight novels, including the smash hit The Fuck-Up (more than 100,000 copies sold), Dogrun, Suicide Casanova (Akashic), and, most recently, The Swing Voter of Staten Island, which is the first volume in a series, The Five Books of Moses. He lives in New York City.
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Customer Reviews

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