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The End As I Know It: A Novel of Millenial Anxiety Paperback – March 18, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Former McSweeney's online editor Shay travels in his debut novel to the now-stale heart of late-'90s political hysteria and pre-millennial angst. The "end" of the title refers to the End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI for short), the global meltdown that is to occur as a result of the unchecked Y2K computer crisis. Randall Knight, a former elementary school teacher, quits his job and tours the country as a roving puppeteer, hoping to make others believe in the impending computer-related doomsday. Shay puts the reader in the quixotic situation of rooting for a protagonist whose every action is in the service of a supremely puerile cause; as Randall crisscrosses the U.S. in search of allies, running headlong from his own problems into the maw of an imagined global catastrophe, it's hard not to feel his pain (in the words of another presence whose then-current impeachment trial haunts this book). If the book ends with more of a whimper than a bang, perhaps that is only to be expected in a novel about an impending but never-arriving tragedy. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Shay takes The End as I Know It into sublimely multilayered directions.” —Los Angeles Times“[The End As I Know It] provides readers with one picaresque, laugh-out-loud funny scene after another. . . . Shay's end-is-nigh novel successfully targets not just the funny bone, but the darkness of the human heart.” —The Boston Globe“Shay endows his main character . . . with the sharp wit one would expect from a McSweeney's alum.” —San Francisco Chronicle“That Randall is charming and appealing even as he alienates everyone he loves is a testament to Shay's light and witty touch with his nutty hero. . . . Shay is a first novelist not to be dismissed.” —USA Today
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Top Customer Reviews
The secret to ths book's success is in Mr. Shay's timeless characters and situations. Replace the year 2000 with Avian Flu, Global Warming, the threat of the Cold War, the Atom Bomb, or any End of the World scenario that has plagued us for generations - the threat is irrelevant. All that matters is Randall, our narrator, and his Gen-X, Gen-Y, Gen-whatever struggle to make something of his life. He battles clueless relatives and annoyed friends in his pursuit to "save" them from catastrophe. Yet he skewers other conspiracists who, to him, take their beliefs too far. In other words, to bastardize Groucho Marx, he doesn't want to belong to the only club that will actually have him as a member.
So we root for Randall as he watches the ticking clock and wrestles with his fears. That he also plays absurd children's songs at elementary schools with the help of some double-entendre named puppets adds to our pathos, and the novel's ample humour.
Mr. Shay gives us a narrator we can't trust, probably wouldn't befriend, and at times want to strangle for chucking away what's good in his life. But then, we all have Y2Ks to worry about, while others stare in wonder at our insistent ignorance to ignore the simple truths they all can see.
Hitchcock would have been proud at the trick here - that the supposed purpose for the book, the time bomb, is not nearly as important as the mirror the author holds up for us to observe. Warts and all, we have a blast doing it.
Shay is witty and creative and even manages to create some tension along the way.
This book is an easy read and very easy to enjoy.
The jokes did not seem to serve the book for the best. They distracted from the character and the plot. Not hat there was much of either. The whole thing was a colossal mess.
Honestly, I would have been better off getting a copy of MAD magazine if I was looking for humor or Hustler magazine if I was looking for literary skill.
I don't think the writer will be teaching many classes at Harvard University.