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Lightning Rods by [DeWitt, Helen]
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Lightning Rods Kindle Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Length: 281 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


'A razor-sharp comic masterpiece.' David Evans, Financial Times -------- 'A masterclass in contained satirical exploration.' Sam Byers, TLS -------- 'This is excellent: cold and crazy.' Joan Acocella, New Yorker -------- 'An extremely funny satire on office politics, sexual politics, American politics, and the art of positive thinking' Jenny Turner, The Guardian 'Brilliant satire on yes-we-can culture' Anna Aslanyan, The Independent -------- 'Nasty idea; very funny book. Helen DeWitt maintains a strong, clear, narrative voice throughout, pitch-perfectly parodying management speak, corporate culture and self-help bibles.' Holly Williams, The Independent on Sunday -------- 'As it moves inexorably onwards with the cold, hard logic of the free market, Lightning Rods gets ever funnier and more bizarre, its targets loftier and its analysis more acute' David Annand, The Telegraph -------- 'What you need, sometimes, is uncompromising anger, and in Lightning Rods DeWitt's anger throws off all kinds of bright light.' Richard Beck, Prospect -------- 'Helen DeWitt shocks the reader with her intelligence - a weird, generous, hilarious marvel.' Teju Cole, author of Open City -------- 'Savagely funny and wilfully provocative, Lightning Rods sees Helen DeWitt let her fearless imagination run riot. A satirist up there with Swift and Orwell." Anthony Holden, author of Big Deal -------- 'DeWitt takes a wonderfully absurdist idea and develops it with flawless logic and a deliciously deadpan humour.' Rupert Thomson, novelist, author of This Party's Got to Stop -------- 'Uproariously funny - DeWitt is a brutal humorist.' Wall Street Journal -------- 'Lightning Rods is a Candide for our time.' Toril Moi -------- 'The laughing-so-hard-other-people-on-the-subway-are-starting-to-wonder-if-you-require-psychiatric-attention kind of book.' Garth Risk Hallberg, The Millions -------- 'DeWitt took 12 years to give us a follow-up to the much-beloved 2000 novel The Last Samurai, so it's a good thing Lightning Rods was absolutely brilliant.' Jason Diamond, Flavorwire -------- 'One of the more rewarding new novels I've read this year.' Scott Esposito, Los Angeles Review of Books -------- 'DeWitt's wickedly smart satire deserves to be a classic.' Rhonda Liebermann, Bookforum -------- 'The language in Lightning Rods is sneaky, tendentious, and deceptive; and it is that which makes it such a triumph, so funny and so frightening.' John Self, Asylum -------- 'A hilarious and pretty near perfect novel.' Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances -------- 'Intelligent, funny and absurd.' Tracy O'Neill, Critical Mob -------- 'Quite simply the oddest novel I have ever read.' Ilana Teitelbaum, Huffington Post -------- 'Lightning Rods is at least partly an exploration of the idea that bolstered with enough rhetorical hot air, just about anything can be marketed successfully to the public as a legitimate cause or product.' Ilana Teitelbaum, Huffington Post -------- 'DeWitt's language is irrepressible, full of energy and control.' Alan Bowden, Wordsofmercury -------- 'What is astonishing about Lightning Rods is DeWitt's razor-sharp humour and her seemingly effortless control of language and voice' Eva Stalker -------- 'Lightning Rods is clever, funny, raises a lot of questions about sex, morality, gender divide and corporate life without ever preaching and is very, very memorable.' Alex in Leeds -------- 'You will look at the world differently after reading Lightning Rods - and you can't really ask for more from a novel than that.' David Hebblethwaite, Follow The Thread -------- 'This novel was very clever and extremely funny. I loved it. (10/10)' Annabel Gaskell, Gaskella -------- 'DeWitt's ear for the rhythm and feel of the bland commercialized language of Homo americanus rivals those of S. J. Perelman and John Ashbery.' Stephen Dodson, LanguageHat -------- 'Language is certainly a concern of the novel - highly accomplished voice, a pastiche of self-help-derived, corporate sales schpiel and good-old, down-home values to produce something both very funny and capable of carrying off a single-minded logic - compellingly, brilliantly strange' Mark Blacklock, You and Me and The Continuum -------- 'It is a brave, challenging novel which could quite easily be misconstrued as sexist, inappropriate or just plain dirty, but it is, in truth, none of these things. It is, plainly speaking, brilliant.' Bii's Books blog

About the Author

Helen DeWitt was born in Washington D.C. in 1957, but spent most of her childhood in South America. She has a B.A. and a D.Phil. in Classics from Oxford University. She worked in a collection of odd jobs while writing the highly acclaimed The Last Samurai, which was published in over twenty countries. Lightning Rods is her second novel to be published. DeWitt lives in Berlin.

Product Details

  • File Size: 684 KB
  • Print Length: 281 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; 1 edition (October 5, 2011)
  • Publication Date: October 5, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811219526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811219525
  • ASIN: B005SH4M5Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,455 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant and incredibly sharp satire - all wrapped up in the main character's childishly simplistic sexual fantasies. Again and again, while reading this book, you will shake your head in disbelief. But you'll do so with a smile on your face. The hero is a failed vacuum cleaner salesman who essentially brings his own erotic fan fiction to life. His plan: that women in the workplace can take on extra work as "Lightning rods" - anonymous sex partners for the men in the office to discharge their frustrations and lightning on. In? On? What was I talking about? Oh yeah, having sex with only the bottom half of women. This book is the best kind of feminist humour - the kind that you put down after reading and realize that it slipped a knife into you while you were laughing. And, if you are like me, then you will also be super turned on by what is essentially a parody of male sexual simplicity. You will be reading, and sort of squirming in your seat with arousal, and then you will think "Oh no! I have become what I most detest!" and then you will read a bit more about having sex with the anonymous bottom halves of women, and then you will begin the important task of trying to convince yourself that it is okay to go finish yourself off while thinking about this because you understand the satire and anyway you don't actually have sex with only the bottom halves of women at work right? You're a good person! And so handsome!
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Format: Hardcover
Lightning Rods is one of the most outrageously funny books I've read in a long time. Helen DeWitt has a masterful way of using her characters to make fun of society's conventions without looking down on them, strictly speaking. Her main character, Joe, hits upon a novel solution to the problem of sexual harassment. Provide anonymous temp workers who can can step into a bathroom at a moment's notice, be revealed across a partition (from the waist down) to a willing (male) employee on the other side. DeWitt follows the implications with a cool and considered logic that makes it seem all-too-plausible. When an FBI G-man catches up with Joe, informing him that he's likely in violation of a few hundred federal, state, and local regulations, Joe, salesman to the end, looks at the bright side: "We didn't violate the Equal Employment Opportunity Act," he says.

The men in this book are all push-overs who think primarily through their little brains, and the women tend to be tough cookies, cool and calculating, highly organized, detail-centric, in search of a leg up (forgive the pun -- they all go on to "swan" their ways into Harvard Law School, become millionaires and Supreme Court Justices, it seems). The prose is as pleasant and straightforward as the characters molded by it.

A study of baboons in captivity has found that those given the kind of release Lightning Rods provides (the book, not the service) will be more productive and efficient in the workplace, calmer and more at ease in their personal lives. Don't listen to me: go with the baboons, buy this book. You won't be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover
"One of the things that's perennially fascinating about the world is the way people sell things to themselves." (29)

This book definitely falls into the category of fiction in which the narrator's thought process is paramount to the plot itself. Truly, the reader experiences this book from within the deepest machinations of Joe's brain, privy to each synaptic connection as instantly as it occurs. DeWitt reveals herself as a great rhetorician in this, her latest, novel. Her exploration of the brain's capacity to rationalize (failure, moral compromise, personal shortcomings) is not only believable but poignant due to the intimate perspective the reader is allowed.

"One day, you're going to wake up and find you sold away the only life you were ever going to get for the sake of the bottom line. Well, there's only so much money you can spend in this life, and the thing you've got to remember is, the one thing you can't buy back, no matter how much money you have, is time. A billion dollars won't buy back one single minute." (238)

"Lightning Rods" reminds me of Nicholson Baker's "Vox" or "Fermata," with all of its sexual quirkiness, but overall it is more notably an intellectual look at how physical drive plays a part (or not) in the American vision of success. Through the lens of one man's fantasies, DeWitt has created a complex commentary on American culture that touches on topics of gender, race and economic status, to name a few. Moreover, the characters are frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious, a difficult feat in a book so rife with intricate thought processes. So glad I started the New Year with this fantastic read!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Our Protagonist, Joe, has been a failure in life as a salesman at selling Encyclopedia Britannica and Electrolux vacuum cleaners. Then he realizes that to be a successful salesman he needs a product for which there is a natural unsatisfied need, which is how he comes up with his idea for his Lightning Rod employment agency. His agency will provide female employees, who will remain anonymous to both the people using her services and to all the other company employees. These employees not only provide the regular services associated with the job, but also sexual services to star male performers, so that they won't accost other regular female employees, which would instigate multimillion dollar sexual harassment suits. How Joe sells the idea to the job candidates and to the employers is the crux of the story. I have to say I admire the author's imagination in this area. One must engage in a minor suspension of disbelief for the ideas to ring true, but the overall story line is really cute and you want to root for all the characters, especially the former minimum wage office employees and professional escorts, who end up with dignified jobs plus about 60k/year and a chance to better themselves in real jobs. This is humorous fiction but also feel good fiction at the same time.

Joe learns to deal with all sorts of problems as the government wanting to use his services to spy on its employees, the minority female with the highest score who Joe initially refuses to hire, since her anonymity would be compromised by the color of her skin, wherein all the other workers are white. It needs to be added here that all sexual alliances are made anonymously through a partition joining the men's and women's restrooms and only the rear end of the women is ever in view.
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