Seth Meyers Reviews Elliott Allagash
Seth Meyers is completing his ninth season on Saturday Night Live, his fourth season as head writer, and his fourth season as anchor of "Weekend Update." Meyers heads a writing staff that has won three Writer's Guild Awards as well as a Peabody for the show's 2008 election coverage. Read his review of Elliot Allagash:
We hired Simon Rich at SNL because of his amazing short fiction. When he told us he was writing a novel we made it clear that were it not up to his previous high standard we would have no choice but to terminate his employment. Well, I just finished Elliot Allagash and I’m happy to say, he still has his job.
Elliot Allagash takes place in eighth grade and this is great news for anyone familiar with Simon’s writing. Every comedy writer I know went through eighth grade but none render the details of it quite like Simon. Familiar schoolyard archetypes from nerds to bullies to hot girls all appear but they’re sharper than ever.
And it would be enough if Simon just spent his book examining the status ladder of Glendale Academy but fortunately there is so much more. Because the title character, Elliot Allagash is one of the best villains I’ve ever encountered in fiction. By age thirteen his offenses include "vandalism, truancy, unprovoked violence, drunkenness, hiring an imposter to take a standardized test, and blackmail." In a classic deal-with-the-devil arrangement Elliot offers to make Seymour, our hero, the most popular kid in the school with the simple condition that Seymour must do everything Elliot says. What makes this journey delightful is that Elliot is extremely rich.
The details of Elliot’s wealth are joyous to read and too numerous to count. My favorite--the Allagash family belongs to the Seven Circles Club, a club so exclusive that they denied George Washington’s only son membership because "his father was a farmer."
A lot of very successful adults I know still wish they could re-live high school as someone popular. Reading this hilarious morality tale about the cost of that popularity makes me happy that I went through my high school years as an outsider. And it makes me even happier that Simon Rich did.
From Publishers Weekly
Saturday Night Live
writer Rich's first novel (after two humorous collections) is a hit and miss riff on Pygmalion
in which genial high school loser Seymour gets a life-changing makeover after meeting Elliot, a fabulously wealthy malcontent who has transferred to Seymour's Manhattan private school. Elliot's lessons on the power of money and the fine art of popularity are given in exchange for chubby Seymour's agreement to do whatever Elliot tells him to do, and, sure enough, Seymour transforms from consummate outsider to a Harvard-bound, straight-A class president. But as the book constantly reminds readers, there are things money can't buy, even for the Allagash family, whose astronomical wealth comes, believe it or not, from an ancestor's invention of paper. Elliot knew the functions of all his father's companies... [but] never seemed to know what I was thinking or feeling, opines Seymour, who grows increasingly complacent in Elliot's schemes and alienated from his dimensionless, doting parents. While Rich is undoubtedly funny and quick-witted, his novelistic chops are underdeveloped, and the narrative's inevitability and the lack of character development detract from the book's finer, funnier points. (May)
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