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on February 25, 2000
This is one of those books that buzzes in your head for weeks after you've read it. "Turn of the Century" is loaded with dazzling riffs and observations about contemporary life, of course, but the people in it are equally memorable and sharply drawn. You really start to see folks you know in light of characters from Andersen's novel. ("Oh, he's a sort of Timothy Featherstone type," I found myself saying of an acquaintance.) The satire -- of the worlds of media and entertainment -- is unsparing, and yet the book has surprising warmth. Andersen has pulled off something remarkable here: a 21st-century version of Trollope's "The Way We Live Now." It's really true: the novel is stippled with present-day counterparts of Augustus Melmotte, Sir Felix Carbury, and the rest of Trollope's immortal cast. As with Trollope, Andersen's essential humanity infuses the book with a sense of worldly compassion. (Tom Wolfe seems tinny and shrill by comparison.) "Turn of the Century" is a novel that will make you laugh out loud, without feeling bad about it later. I can't remember when I've had a better time with a novel, or learned so much along the way.
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on December 8, 1999
Anderson has done some admirable heavy lifting to present a just-in-time, high concept, bullet train of mild satire and cleverness. It takes awhile get used to and wade through the topical references to events, people, places, and things, both real and vividly imagined, that five years from now will make this novel seem like it was written in a dead language. Readers seem to have widely differing opinions about whether the characters are compelling,it's funny, etc. If you don't have any interest and affinity for the Fast Company/Hollywood/Web culture you'll hate it. I'm familiar enough with the worlds of the novel (at the grunt level anyway) to get the jokes and admire the imagination. But if you want a book that deals deeper with whether we lose our "soul" and connection to others by what we do for work, try JR, by William Gaddis (an author whose movie rights Anderson's character Ben Gould buys up in one of his "charitable" schemes). Overall, Turn of the Century is a too-long, although often amusing piece that relies so heavily on a reader's existing knowledge of the scene that I found myself holding the characters at arm's length. I prefer being a little more intimate.
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on January 6, 2000
I don't know why this novel had to be 659 pages! Starts out with a bang. Loved how the author drew me into the techno/media word with the cool jargon, like Doug Coupland's GENERATION X, but unlike GEN X, this book was waaaaay too long and all the hip-slick-cool language grew tiresome and the characters grating. I didn't feel for Lizzie or George and their gimme-gimme lives and by the end---yes I read the whole damn thing, brought it to the beach with me and had no other reading material---secretly hoped that George's plane was going to crash en route to Mexico! Wouldn't recommend reading it unless you have alot of time to waste...life's too short!
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on August 2, 2001
"Tour de force" is no doubt an adequate label for this book. Kurt Andersen's first novel is a gigantic feast on "the modern" in the high lanes of today's American business. It is constantly entertaining indeed in a "Tom Wolfish" way. But you can sense a certain freshness in Andersen's book that you can't find in works like A Man In Full. The dialogue is more catchy and somehow it's structure has greater appeal to a young reader than myself than that of an (please excuse me) old-timer like Tom Wolfe. If you were to use a musical expression you could say that this book consists of a magnificent longwinded accelerando. The intensity rises for some 700 pages +. But there are things that Tom Wolfe juggles smoothly and sometimes bites vigorously that Andersen doesn't really try to take hold of in "Turn of The Century". The milieu is portrayed slightly superficially and the social critique seems a bit vague. A harsh judgement would be that this is more entertainment than fiction. But that would also be too harsh. Kurt Andersen has written a very smart, VERY entertaining and very long book. It marks a very impressive debut - but I await even greater nourishment from his hands. I give it three big stars.
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on September 28, 2007
I can understand why so many people gave up on this book, but I can't help but feel sorry that they did. For me, Kurt Andersen wrote a novel that perfectly reflects the CNN/Fox News sound bite journalism and MTV/YouTube short attention span entertainment that rules our culture today not just with his story, but with the structure of the book. He overloads the reader with information which he repeats again and again until it finally comes together like the sections of a pointillist painting to present Andersen's very cynical and very funny view of the Information Age. It's like a mirror reflecting a mirror, reflecting a mirror, ad infinitum. I admit it's not an easy read, but if you can dance through it, you'll find a story and point of view that's unusually original, entertaining, and most definitely worthwhile. As for me, I'm off to buy Heyday.
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on March 26, 2001
This 600+ page endeavor in tedium has quite a few clever and witty observations about the current state of media, technology, etc., but is undone by the author's endless tone of self-congratulation and his complete inability to MOVE THE STORY ALONG. The plight of George and Lizzie is secondary to all of Andersen's cheeky observations and endless descriptive dreck. There's no sense rehashing the plot because there really isn't one. For a story intending to portray life in the modern fast lane, so little seems to actually happen, and it's hard to care about any of the characters since they serve mainly as props and time-killers in between the author's next clever zinger. Most of the time, the author's supposedly keen insight into the 21st century is no more than well-dressed but thinly-veiled cliches (this is particularly prevalent - and annoying - when the author shifts the setting out of New York City to the West Coast and shows his complete ignorance of anything outside the 212 area code), and you get the distinct impression that the author is writing just to hear himself talk. Fresh and invigorated at the start, it doesn't take long for Turn of the Century to wear thin and dwindle to a boring, lethargic crawl. All in all, a very disappointing read, since I was always a fan of his work in Spy Magazine. This is precisely the kind of "hip, cutting edge" fiction - with it's media barbs and heavy handed approach to social satire - which would fool critics into thinking the author really had something to say.
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on May 26, 2002
This book has marvelously drawn characters and a deft plot. But what lingers in my mind are the constant, droll little absurdities that abound in the characters' world, understated seeming little asides which charactertize postmodern American urban and media life. And give Andersen credit that he was actually prescient, in that things we accept as unremarkable are getting more postmodern and more absurd all the time. Every time I see or read about something like the Secretary of the Treasury touring the Third World with Bono, I think to myself, "this is just like something out of 'Turn of the Century.'"
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on January 25, 2000
Sure there are plenty of comparisons to Tom Wolfe. Yes, the book may be a bit long for some. But what a great story Kurt Anderson has put together. And it finishes just as strong as it starts. Remember all the television coverage ringing in the new year? How we all became glued to the hype and hoopla? Now imagine all those TV and marketing and software execs spinning their wheels right now trying to come up with the Next Big Thing. Basically, that's where Anderson takes you with Turn of the Century. I personally liked the character of George McTier a great deal (most of the time). Harold Mose offers reminders of those media titans we all read about in the magazines and see on TV. And the world Anderson creates really isn't that far off the mark. This novel moves at top speed. And speed kills... at least careers and brain cells for some characters. A great (and long) read that kept me entertained from start to finish.
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on May 15, 2000
What starts off as a compelling blend of characters and situation rapidly becomes confusing, unrealistic, and worse, boring.
Heck, I can work up sympathy for our female lead when we think she's going to have to sell out her company for $13 million instead of the expected $35 million, as Anderson asks us to. I can even work up a little sympathy for the travails of our male lead, even though "failing" in his case means he'll have to fall back on the profits of the "Homicide"-esque show he co-created.
But what's with boring me, Kurt? I don't want to give away anything in this review -- the above has been discussed in numerous reviews -- but the plot utterly fails to achieve anything like a dramatic apogee. Instead, the otherwise-fascinating Mr. Anderson relies on a narrative that twists and turns without ever attempting anything as straightforward as liftoff.
Is the author afraid of allowing himself to simply tell us a story? From such promising beginnings, I expected better.
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on September 21, 2000
When this book first came out in 1999, I thought about reading it, but was too daunted. When it came out in paperback, I bought it and decided to give it a try. I literally could not put it down. The 659 pages was almost too short. I could have read about George and Lizzie and LuLu and Sir (max) and Ben and Featherstone for another 1000. These characters, while satirical are magical. To inhabit their world is a gift.
Andersen just "gets" it, his book is filled with media-saavy references (some will argue too many). The more you know about the media, the more you will love it. From Barbie World to MBC to The Casino Royale in NYC to 100 hilarious TV shows, it never ends. It is interesting to see that some of the predictions he made have actually come true. Many of Andersen's ideas aren't that crazy.
George is a terrific leading man. Lizzie is a fascinating woman. You learn to love them and their family. Their friends, including Cubby, Featherstone, and Ben are my among my favorites, are spectular. At it's core, this is a love story. The story of George and Lizzie and all their luck and loss. It is engrossing.
The last quarter of the book is all over the map, but it fits. It is fun, surprising and even a bit moving. This is our time, our places, our new century. Entertainment Weekly was right in it's review, Andersen is the 1st great writer of the 3rd Millenium. This book takes it place among my very favorite works.
I can't wait to see what is next. I raise my glass to Featherstone.
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