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Flatscreen: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Adam Wilson
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
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Book Description

“OMFG, I nearly up and died from laughter when I read Flatscreen. This is the novel that every young turk will be reading on their way to a job they hate and are in fact too smart for.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

Indie-lit star and Faster Times editor Adam Wilson delivers the gleefully absurd, effortlessly heartwarming story of one young man’s struggle to shake off the listless, sexless, stoned mantle of suburban teenage life and become something better. Fortunately (maybe) for Eli, his apathetic quest finds a catalyzing agent in one Mr. Seymour J. Kahn, a paraplegic sex addict and two-bit silver screen star who initiates a mad decent into debasement and (of course) YouTube stardom—a transformation from which there will be no going back.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2012: There is a deep undercurrent of American literature dedicated to the misanthropes, rejects, madmen, and drunks of society. Flatscreen is a hilarious, worthy addition to this freakish sub-genre. The main character, Eli Schwartz, is a stoned, bathrobed, doughy slacker. He befriends a suicidal, paraplegic sex addict twice his age, fantasizes about the Hispanic girl who parks cars at his synagogue, mooches off his parents, and gets ridiculed, beat up, and shot at (mostly by his friends and family). Through it all he ponders the ageless questions of Buddhist monks and angst-ridden teens: What's the point of life? Is anything inherently meaningful? Should I try to be a good person or not? And most importantly, who should play me in the Hollywood adaptation of my life? --Benjamin Moebius

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Eli Schwartz at 20: jobless, pudgy, leading an aimless, often drug-addled existence. Into his life comes the larger-than-life Seymour Kahn, an Orson Wells–like, wheelchair-bound former actor. A raconteur and raunchmeister who shares Eli’s fondness for drugs, Kahn becomes a kind of reverse role model and failed father figure for Eli, who, in the meantime, is struggling to find, well . . . what? A job? A girlfriend? Love? Longing? Meaning or purpose in his feckless life? Actually he’d settle for some sex, but that’s seldom forthcoming, despite his fevered fantasies. In his first novel, Wilson, editor of The Faster Times, has written an antic, amusing, ribald coming-of-age novel. Though secondary characters seem interchangeable and, frankly, forgettable, Eli himself is a well-rounded (!), endearing though sometimes exasperating protagonist. The author’s use of sentence fragments and Eli’s occasional stream-of-consciousness ruminations that flicker like images on a flatscreen TV bring a briskness and energy to a novel that otherwise might be mired in Eli’s inanition. Despite a veneer of the ironic and snarky, the novel offers a foundation of genuine caring, affection, and—yes—love. An auspicious debut that promises, in Wilson, a standout addition to a new generation of writers. --Michael Cart

Product Details

  • File Size: 1588 KB
  • Print Length: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (February 21, 2012)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005LC0RBE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #524,234 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
2.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome Addition to the Coming of Age Genre February 22, 2012
First novel by a Columbia MFA grad. Humorous, deft facility with language. A few months in the life of a directionless upper middle class New England Jewish kid a couple of years out of high school. You can envision the novel, right?

Yes and no. This starts out as you would expect. Teen angst, self loathing, drugs, totally directionless life. But self-aware enough to know that he is going nowhere, and well aware that he is miserable. People are always telling him he is funny, and that is also the main positive feature of the book's first part. His self-description? "A defeated-by-gravity stomach. Hair was a bird's nest. I was a wounded, well-fed bird."

It is a pleasure to read the language of this book. The language is well crafted, innovative, and interesting. "People said I was like [Uncle Ned] because he was a f...up [Amazon required ellipse]. Then he died. They stopped saying it." But after awhile I feared that the book was going nowhere. That the lively language wasn't sufficiently compensating for the lack of plot development. No job, lives with mom, watches TV all day, interests limited to scoring women and drugs. Success with the later, not the former. Aimless, drifting, sad. This does not make for a successful life, or book.

But then an incredible thing happens. The plot and the writing subtly change. Plot changes are what you expect in a coming of age novel, and the writer constantly plays with the reader's expectation and hope for this. He provides nineteen possible endings to the life of our narrator and the book. Everything from quick death, pathetic loneliness and drug addiction to various versions of rich, famous, happy. But the book has no sudden changes, no instant resolutions.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By L. Jobe
In that way, it is brilliant. Wilson captures just how much of a disillusioned young man Eli Schwartz is. Unfortunately, it felt much like the ramblings of an actual early-20s loser that nobody cares to be around, much less read about for 300 pages.

The book also really lost something in the gazillion "possible endings." I think this book could have easily been catapulted from okay to good by slashing those by half or more (they were really, really annoying by the end) and expanding the end of the book. Just as the book begins to transition from Eli being a complete annoyance to someone we start to care about, the book is littered with his daydreams of how his life may turn out. Don't get me wrong, some are vital to the book and understanding Eli, but the sheer number of them was just overkill. Along with the movie references and the lists (although I liked the lists), at times the book even seemed gimmicky. It's a shame too, because the book has so much opportunity to be expanded into something much more engaging.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
When a novel begins with a paraplegic ex-actor waking up a privileged, tumescent 20-something slacker and asking him to score some weed, you know you're about to spend the next 10 hours of your life in a bumper-car ride among the seamier aspects of the American bourgeoisie. Or you are if your guide is an honest writer who begins his first-person narrative with a randy cinéphile promising "guns, drugs, strippers, and other tenets of contemporary suburban life" and then proceeds to give you all that and more for 325 pages. Adam Wilson is an honest writer. FLATSCREEN, his debut novel, is the best kind of bumpy ride --- exhilarating, unpredictable and just a little scary.

This novel won't be for all tastes. It's gritty, vulgar and relentlessly unsentimental. But readers who can take it will be rewarded with vivid descriptions, thoughtful asides, a crackling pace, and a sardonic protagonist who makes Benjamin Braddock, the Dustin Hoffman character from The Graduate, seem focused and self-assured by comparison.

Eli Schwartz has spent so much of his life watching television that cooking programs have turned him into a gourmet chef. As the novel opens, that's the only talent he's willing to use --- that and taking drugs and sleeping with women, from former classmates to their mothers. Eli's parents are long divorced, and his mother, whom he lives with in a suburban Boston mansion, has decided to sell the house and move into a condo. The buyer is Seymour J. Kahn, who doesn't let his confinement to a wheelchair keep him from cheating on his latest wife, partaking of recreational drugs, and enjoying target practice in his new backyard.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flatscreen February 28, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Over the past year I've read a number of books in which the main character(s) emerge from structure of school into the chaos of the real world and find themselves lost in the shuffle. Most of the time these are post-college novels in which the character discovers that maybe that thing they wanted wasn't what they wanted at all. This is not one of those novels. At the center of Adam Wilson's debut novel is Eli Schwartz, high school graduate, Food Network junkie, recreational drug user. His parents' marriage has fallen apart and he's been living in his mother's basement for a few years while the rest of his friends have gone off to college. Eli's life is without proper form - all of the structure in his life has either expired (school), disintegrated (family), or run dry (money). All that's left for him is getting high and watching tv. It's kind of a slacker-stoner novel.

The beginning of Flatscreen feels like a well-managed exercise in stream-of-consciousness writing. It jumps like a late-90's music video - flashing tangentially related images that all somehow come together in a weird but cohesive vision. Within the first few pages Wilson gives the reader a good taste of what the next 300+ pages will be like - dark, silly, strange, profane, and sad. The rest of the book is presented in short chapters that alternate between traditional and nontraditional storytelling methods. Sometimes these nontraditional sections take the form of lists and later in the novel these sections are the imagined 19 alternate endings to Eli's story.

This is one of those books where I felt indifferent about the story but enjoyed the craft and construction of the novel. The prose is so quick that it sometimes feels more like reporting then your normal run-of-the-mill writing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointment
I know this book got decent reviews and some of my friends said it got better towards the end but I could not finish it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by eclecticcrafter
1.0 out of 5 stars The characters are boring unlikable losers
Why do people find this book hilarious? The characters are boring unlikable losers. Perhaps that's the point? But where is the wit? The charm? Read more
Published 5 months ago by OK RACH
2.0 out of 5 stars “Everyone not ready to move on, doing it anyway, no choice.”
“Flatscreen” is a very disappointing novel. It is pretentiously overwritten, and the style is not consistent. It also boasts very unsympathetic characters. Read more
Published 8 months ago by B. Wilfong
2.0 out of 5 stars David Shields dream novel
This is the novel that Shields predicts for the future: fragments, brevity in narrative, and collage-style content. Read more
Published 13 months ago by matt hunter
4.0 out of 5 stars Meh
hard to follow who was talking....the women didn't seem real almost like he was writing about men but then gave them
tits. it was funny I still laughed out loud allot. Read more
Published 17 months ago by pornaddict
5.0 out of 5 stars Bold, imaginative debut
After finishing Flatscreen, it has to be concluded that author, Adam Wilson, has a singularly disturbed and brilliant mind. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Dominic Barber
1.0 out of 5 stars Unfunny and, well, flat
I really tried to like this book, after hearing good reviews about how funny it is. The problem is, for a new voice and an edgy indie book, it just feels tired and lame. Read more
Published on February 20, 2013 by Travis
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and poignant
Funny and heartfelt and always offensive, Adam Wilson's almost-autobiography is a classic modern coming of age tale about the misguided life of a "loser" in affluent... Read more
Published on December 29, 2012 by Theo Montgomery
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible book.
I normally don't review books, but as a public service I figured that it would be a good idea to write that this book is horrible and not worth reading even if you get it for free. Read more
Published on December 24, 2012 by K. Pena
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining & charming
Eli is a self-indulgent loser who is forced to reassess his life. Though he's spoiled and misguided, Eli is sweet and charming. I found myself rooting for him throughout the novel. Read more
Published on September 30, 2012 by gimmeapen
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More About the Author

Adam Wilson is the author of the novel Flatscreen, a National Jewish Book Award finalist. His stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, and The Best American Short Stories, among many other publications. In 2012 he received the Terry Southern Prize, which recognizes "wit, panache, and sprezzatura" in work published by The Paris Review. He teaches creative writing at New York University and lives in Brooklyn.

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