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The Unbinding Paperback – January 30, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; First Edition edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277411
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kirn (Thumbsucker) serialized this neat surveillance culture satire on Slate.com in 2006. The web version makes a mostly smooth transition to print, except for items in bold that Kirn encourages readers to type into the book's accompanying web site. The book centers around Kent Selkirk, who makes his living at a company called AidSat, a kind of invasively cyber Dear Abby-like organization designed to coach desperate people on everything from alternatives to suicide to negotiating the purchase of a home. (Caller heart rates are monitored through bracelets and ear jacks.) When smug Selkirk starts to develop a crush on bland neighbor Sabrina, he uses AidSat to his advantage, but is unaware that others are working against him. Adding an element of mystique is Sabrina's eccentric friend Colonel Geoff, who talks incessantly and mysteriously of "The Unbinding." The familiar morals-that people are not who they appear to be, that they can easily lose track of themselves in the cybercacophony, and that exhibitionism is replacing real contact-are done with a light enough touch and enough novel content to make the thin conceit and epistolary format work swimmingly. The Crying of Lot 49 this isn't, but it's a quick and funny George Saunders-esque slice-and-dice of creeping corporate information hegemony.
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Review

"Kirn's The Unbinding merits our close attention, not only for itself--the man is a talented writer--but for what might be portended for the art of fiction."—The Boston Globe

"Kirn depicts technology as a looming Orwellian force, spying on the citizenry, turning our insides outward. . . . The loss of privacy makes for comedy, at first, and then for a sense of foreboding as trampled boundaries refuse to reappear." —Los Angeles Times

More About the Author

WALTER KIRN is a contributing editor to Time magazine, where he was nominated for a National Magazine Award in his first year, and a regular reviewer for the New York Times Book Review. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, GQ, Vogue, New York and Esquire. He is the author of four previous works of fiction: My Hard Bargain: Stories, She Needed Me, Thumbsucker, and Up in the Air. He lives in Livingston, Montana.

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Format: Paperback
Walter Kirn has a unique view of a world bedeviled by advancing technology and rampant paranoia in a country obsessed by the all-seeing eye of Big brother. A twenty-four hour subscription service, SatAid provides its customers with on the spot help with any number of situations, from personal danger to answering life questions, "Active Angels" like Kent Selkirk providing "seamless life-assistance interfaces" when called upon by subscribers. Basically inept at social conventions, Kent finds this job satisfying on many levels, maintaining a modicum of intimacy that requires little commitment other than his soothing voice on the line. Content to exist in this netherworld, Kent enjoys his general anonymity, pleased to be of assistance, aware that he can execute direct surveillance should events require it for the good of the customer.

When Kent's interest is piqued by a neighbor at his complex, Sabrina Grant, he requests all the available data on her activities and social background, in service of making a personal connection. Although his request is patently against company rules, Kent feels that he is an exception in this matter. Then he meets "Rob" at a health club, a man who is interested in instant friendship; Kent is naturally wary, being of a suspicious bent himself. Then there is the ageing, mentally-addled Colonel Geoff, who takes Kent under his wing, revealing government secrets from a past of networking deeply within the system. As assorted other characters surface via Kent's email, the picture shifts subtly, suggesting that the watcher might well be the watched. A cat-and-mouse game of one-upmanship reveals a more complex battle for top dog in the information industry, Kent and Rob at loggerheads, each outwitting the other in a series of clever ploys.
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