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Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: A Novel Hardcover – September 1, 1993


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670851396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670851393
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,261,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Entropy, violence and weird fetishism confound citizens and local institutions in this breezy, darkly comic lampoon of civic duty and ambition. Things have gone awry in a small, seaside community somewhere in the American subtropics, and schoolteacher Pete Robinson wants to lead his fellow citizens back to sanity. Unfortunately, he may not remember the way. An expert in the history of torture, he supervises the drawing and quartering of the town's mayor by four automobiles. Meanwhile, the local citizenry is busy surrounding their homes with moats filled with broken glass, bamboo spears and water moccasins; the school has been converted into a factory creating talismans from marine animals; and the public library's duplicate books are being used to detonate claymore mines in Turtle Pond Park ("I do enjoy the way The Riverside Shakespeare rides the wind on a long toss," says one character, while another notes, "For hang time, give me The Complete Poems of Robert Frost any day"). Robinson reopens school in his own basement--with the ulterior motive of promoting himself as a mayoral candidate. If all this seems bewildering, first novelist Antrim presents it, ironically, as a sunny slice of life. His crisp, effective prose and Robinson's odd academic notions echo Don DeLillo's White Noise. There is much to chuckle at, and even a bit to ponder in this imaginative debut. First serial to Harper's and the Paris Review.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Mr. Robinson is a teacher without a school--the result of a taxpayer revolt--who has a fascination with the instruments of the Inquisition. He has a wife who, as a result of an encounter with a New Age anthropologist, has discovered the coelacanth within her--a real problem since it is a buffalo. His neighbors are building moats and booby traps around their property, and Robinson's own choice is a spike-filled trench. Following the dismemberment of the previous mayor for lobbing Stinger missiles into the Botanical Garden, Robinson decides to launch his own political campaign for a better world, using the young students at his proposed home school to spread his message. Antrim's caustic commentary on the breakdown of our sense of community, our grabbing at trendy straws in an attempt to discover our spiritual selves, and the foibles of educational theorists is full of black and bleak humor. While definitely not a mainstream work, this first novel should be seriously considered for its cutting-edge approach. Recommended.
- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert S Michaels on November 15, 1996
Format: Paperback
This is one of those books that keeps doing its work long after the last word has been read. Antrim makes his art like he observes his life: contradictions galore. Mr. Robinson's loyalty to his wife and to his ideals regarding education don't seem as if they should fit within the general paranoid isolative nature of his community, and yet they do, in a very real way. Mr. Robinson attempts to make a real difference in his community while neighbors build vastly deep moats equipped with lethal spikes to surround their homes. There is a haunting similarity to the entire town's psyche here in this image, and Mr. Robinson is not immune to this. Characters seem to proceed with a wide knowledge of life and its intricacies, yet are unable to make the connections between things: to see how interest can breed obsession, how love can inspire violence. There exists the danger of falling through these cracks and understanding and this is indeed what happens.
The novel creeps toward an unsettling climax that you always know in the back of your mind is coming, yet can't quite let yourself believe it to be true. The cliched neighbor response to the latest small town horror on the six o'clock news comes to mind. "He seemed like a nice man. The perfect neighbor. Basically kept to himself." "Elect Mr. Robinson For A Better World" is touching and unsettling in the way that little art is and most life can be. Despite jacketflap trumpeting, few novelists seem willing to be brave enough to address the pockets of darkness that exist in the well-lit homes of the upper middle class. Don't expect the feel good book of the year, but if you're looking for something thought-provoking, this might very well be what you need to read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Antrim takes a small suburban community and removes the authorities which force it to be civilized. The result is a bizarre mixture of barbarism, fad culture and civilized neighbourly rivalry. I found it fascinating, entertaining and darkly funny.

What made it funny was that, despite the extremity to which the aspects of suburban living had been taken, it was all very familiar. The satire is sharp, but Antrim manages to express it as an insider telling a shared joke, rather than as an outsider taking pot-shots at another's culture.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Antrim's second novel, The Hundred Brothers, is also very good, but I think I liked Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World more.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
I imagine these folks giving "Mr. Robinson" five stars must be friends with Mr. Antrim; it's a good book, but puh-leeeez! Not five-stars-good. Like his cohorts Eugenides and Moody (and Wallace too, on a bad day), Antrim uses a certain amount of gross-out black humor(?) to separate his work from more mainstream prose. And I'm not complaining; I don't want to read Harlequin Romances. But I read this thing in 1998, years after it was published; and while I still feel a visceral response to people's arms being torn from their sockets; well, also it seems a little tired and juvenile, this kind of "I may have gone to an Ivy League school, but I'm no suburbanite" sort of literary thrashing around. I've already been shocked into numbness, I guess -- maybe Antrim led the pack, but that hardly matters now. I would nominate this as the "Feel Bad Book of the Year". All this violence and misery, and to what end? It's not that funny, really, and it's not saying anything new. All the gal characters are evaluated to that usual "would-I-f*ck-'er?" degree, and the men are the usual Babbitt-esque suburban louts suckin' down their brewskis. Ho hum. That being said, he's an amazing writer, and I imagine that if he gets more interesting things in his head, he could produce a real 5-star novel some day without breaking a sweat.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin M. Davis on January 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book reviews likely say more about the reviewer than the book. This is a masterfully written piece of innovative fiction. I just disliked it. Something about Mr Antrim's imagination while unique, is too dark and twisted for me. Not to say I don't enjoy a good dark read - Celine, the Patrick Melrose novels. Just not this one. I also found the stylistic choice of a single continuous narrative without chapter breaks, while very effective at creating a propulsive force, to be on balance a detriment to my becoming immersed in the novel as I did not have the luxury of reading it in one sitting.
5 stars for excellent fiction writing, 1 star for my dislike, hence the compromise 3 stars.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kim F. Hill on November 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Donald Antrim is a wonderful original writer who takes the novel to a new and dark place unlike any book you will ever read. Black humor mixed with painful insights on us all it explores the paradoxical world of insanity and real suburban life in a very funny way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rick Rezinas on February 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
Like most coastal towns, Elect Mr. Robinson takes place in a world slightly askew of our own. The premise of the book is based on violence, and there is a fair amount of shocking violence. Yet it is often laugh-out-loud funny. One of my favorite reads ever, I've been surprised by people who've loved or hated this one. The obligatory author mashup might be Denis Johnson meets Delillo with a splash of John Kennedy Toole. If you can laugh while being appalled, this could be the perfect read for you.
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