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Open Line Paperback – May 1, 2008

4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Everything changes for late-night radio talk show host Annette Majoris after she jokingly tells her Twin Cities audience that the Vietnam War was a government hoax. Where Annette had been struggling, careerwise and financially, she quickly finds herself grappling with a multiplying caller-base, national syndication and the romantic attentions of wealthy Republican Party mover-and-shaker Walter Bishop. Guided by Walter, who co-opts Annette's message to launch a presidential hopeful, and supported by Stan Marlin, the erstwhile leader of a radical conservative organization, Annette persists on the air that Vietnam never really happened, provoking outrage and disgust and attracting a following among veterans who, haunted for decades by their participation in the war, find in Annette's questioning the possibility for closure and healing. While Annette defends her argument persuasively for a time, it's a house of cards that comes crashing down. Hawley's characters are fully realized people, with their own set of ambitions, insecurities and competing desires, and her great achievement is to have constructed out of their lives a deft and hilarious sendup of the media and political culture. (May)
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From Booklist

Twentysomething Minnesota talk-radio host Annette Majoris becomes the talk of the town when, to spice up a sluggish broadcast, she suggests that the Vietnam War didn’t happen. Then she starts to wonder: Could such a seemingly preposterous proposition be possible? Soon she has the attention of Stan Marlin, an edgy right-wing activist just itching for a new cause. Then romantic sparks fly between Annette and Walter Bishop, a Republican Party mover-and-shaker who has money, charm, and the state’s very ambitious governor on his speed dial. Overeager Stan sends Annette fat folders full of “facts” supporting her precarious thesis. Her following grows, as does the anxiety of her producer, who doesn’t like what she’s doing, but can’t deny that her listener base is larger than ever. Annette has detractors, to be sure, but she’s also received calls from Vietnam vets who say she’s helped them come to terms with their angst. Hawley (Trip Sheets, 1998) shrewdly skewers the media and popular culture as she catalogs Annette’s journey from no-name to fame. --Allison Block

Product Details

  • Paperback: 283 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press; English Language edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566892090
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566892094
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,144,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ellen Hawley has worked as an editor and copy editor, a talk-show host, a cab driver, a waitress, a janitor, an assembler, a file clerk, and for four panic-filled hours, a receptionist. She has also taught creative writing. She was born and raised in New York, lived in Minnesota for many long, cold winters, and now lives in Cornwall, U.K.

You can find her blog at http://notesfromtheuk.com, her website at http://www.ellenhawley.com, and her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ellenhawleyfacepage?fref=ts.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Don't start reading Open Line unless you are ready to stay up all night until you finish it! Hawley creates a fascinating scene, pulls you right in, and keeps you there with a rich tapestry of details sprinkled with wit like, "you'd get arrested for malicious condiments" if you insisted on having a picnic in a forbidden public place.

With a few quick words, Hawley lets us into her characters' inner conflicts: "No sane human being, she told herself, would take them for a couple, and then a few minutes later she had to tell herself the same thing all over again."

The descriptions in Open Line are elegantly simple and highly evocative: "Her voice ran high on the scale, threatening to spin into the infrared." Or "Annette closed the door, putting a slab of painted wood and a drywall sandwich between herself and that easy voice."

All in all, an entertaining tale of how a handful of opportunists can use the media to make an idea -- any idea -- seem real and plausible.
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Format: Paperback
At a time when far too many Americans are clueless not only about American history (with many believing the U.S. beat Russia in World War II), but about current events as well (with ignorant voters believing Barack Obama is Muslim and perhaps even foreign born--even though one must be American-born to serve as president!), Ellen Hawley hits the nail on the head with her brilliant satire, "Open Line."

The key to good fiction is whether a reader can believe the characters, as well as the story they live out in the book. Not only did I not have any trouble recognizing characters like those in "Open Line" as key elements of our politically-degenerated culture, but the tale Ms. Hawley weaves--about a bored radio host nearly setting off a national movement by off-handedly suggesting, tongue not so firmly in cheek, that perhaps the Vietnam War never really happened--was so realistic it was frightening.

In the old days of yellow journalism, shameless newspaper reporters and editors would say a writer shouldn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. Unfortunately, we've come full circle, with thousands of mainstream news outlets fighting for attention, credibility and ad dollars with rogue bloggers and YouTube correspondents. The result is that journalism is being increasingly diluted and even polluted with unverified and unreliable "news" reporting, irresponsible speculation by "expert" analysts, as well as outright, often calculated lies.

In such a poisonous atmosphere, it is quite plausible that a desperate radio talk show host could propel herself to a national platform by riding a wave of paranoia (not all unjustified) about government "black ops" and full-fledged misinformation.
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Format: Paperback
In the Twin Cities, late-night radio talk show host Annette Majors jokes on the air that the Vietnam War was a government hoax. Whereas before she made her sublime commentary, Annette seemingly was going nowhere in radio; after the remark she suddenly has more than fifteen minutes of fame as her show is so hot it goes into national syndication.

Even her personal life awakens when rich Republican supporter Walter Bishop begins to court her. Walter uses her "belief" to launch a presidential bid for a relatively unknown wannabe and radical conservative Stan Marlin who supports her stand. Heeding their advice, Annette refuses to back down from her stance that there never was a Vietnam War. While some Viet Vets thinks she is a buffoon; others protest; and some still reliving their horrors seek closure through her.

This superb satire showcases the power of the media in which misinformation, disinformation, omissions, and fabrications are the norm. The key to this terrific tale is the players seem genuine especially Annette whose eloquent defense of her radical revisionism rings true. For those who reject the underlying concept remember there is an Iranian president denying the Holocaust; many people disbelieving the moon landings and a prominent right wing talk show host who using clever questioning of the vice president made it sound like Richard Clarke was below the inner security sanctum before 9/11. It is not WHAT HAPPENED as McClellan has said, it's the spin. Well written and entreating, fans who appreciate a biting condemnation of the news will understand that Eisenhower's military-government complex omitted the third partner the media.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Paperback
An interesting paradox of modern media is that while there is a glut of information from podcasts, blogs and news networks, it always seems to be the little ideas that cultivate the highest interest. It's a concept seen in elections where one quote or recording dominates the news cycle for at least three days, or when one video released on YouTube can build thousands of viewers just by word of mouth.

And of course, the problem with so many of these ideas is that most of them are ones that people are better off not paying any attention to, either founded on false pretense or being simply idiotic. Christopher Buckley explored this idea in "Boomsday" where a blogger suggests exterminating the baby boomers to save the government funds, and Ellen Hawley has now explored it in her novel "Open Line," an intriguing yet unsatisfying look at saying the wrong thing at the right time.

Trapped in the echo chamber that is late-night Midwest talk radio, Annette Majoris finally succumbs to her boredom and off-handedly suggests to a caller that the Vietnam War never actually happened. As the topic begins to generate calls from veterans and conspiracy nuts, it also attracts the attention of the equally disaffected Stan Marlin, who quickly sees that her theory can be a unifying issue for his conservative political group.

Soon, thanks to Stan's research and a rapidly growing listener base, Annette finds herself turning into a star. She begins dating the wealthy Republican lobbyist Walter Bishop, engages in serious talks with the governor about putting her listeners on his side and finds her show pulling in listeners on all ends of the political spectrum.
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