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Flatscreen: A Novel Paperback – February 21, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (February 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006209033X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062090331
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #587,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 subgenre. 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 adaption 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

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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Customer Reviews

I didn't though, because the book has some redeeming qualities.
buttonfly
I am not a prude, and I am not offended by this book, it's just simply gross.
Patricia Vander mause
All of the characters interact, but they never really know each other.
Brooks Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By las cosas on February 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
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 on March 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
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 By Bookreporter on March 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
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 By Brooks Williams on 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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