From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A Canadian in 1987 goes to Texas and gets crushingly corrupted in Martin's sexy, funny and devastating debut. Bobby Clark is 16 when he leaves a dead-end setup with his single mother and grass-is-greener girlfriend, Wendy, and heads to Fort Worth to get into the fine jewelry business under the stewardship of his salesman brother, Jim. In no time, Bobby and Jim are snorting lines, Bobby's moving in on (and smoking crank with) Jim's mistress, Lisa, and getting a crash course in amazingly crooked business. Scams, bait-and-switch deals, bogus jewelry and startling treachery are day-to-day at the jewelry store, until the store's gregarious owner gets into trouble at the same time Bobby tries to save Lisa from a massive flame-out. Years later, Bobby's back in Fort Worth, married to Wendy (and with a child) and still in the jewelry business with Jim when Lisa reappears, engaged in an equally questionable if older profession. Bobby's helplessly honest narration is a sublime counterpoint to the crooked doings he's complicit in. Reading this is like watching one man's American dream turn into a soul-sucking nightmare. (May)
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How to Sell
, a teardown of the jewelry industry and a reflection on deception, is "a lesson in double dealing -- in business and in romance," said O
. Certainly, the novel contains amoral -- though surprisingly insightful -- characters on uncertain paths to a vaguely defined "success." The New York Times Book Review
asked whether, for all its hype, the novel would become "an inevitable classic." The writing, the philosophical inquiries, and the compelling coming-of-age tale, whose scams resonate in this day, are top-notch. "All in all, it's a winning combination," concluded the reviewer -- if not, perhaps, the Great American Novel. But just as The Great Gatsby
reflected the corrupted ideals of the Jazz Age, How to Sell
may come to represent the early 21st-century American dream -- and how we continue to sell each other and our souls for a tiny, unsatisfying glimpse of it.