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A Reader of Fictions: There's Always Someone Cooler Than You - Ben Folds

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, April 1, 2012

There's Always Someone Cooler Than You - Ben Folds

The New Republic
Author: Lionel Shriver
Pages: 400
ARC Acquired from: HarperCollins via NetGalley

Description from NetGalley:
Fat and ostracized as a kid, Edgar Kellogg has always yearned to be popular. When he’s offered the post of foreign correspondent in a Portuguese backwater that has sprouted a homegrown terrorist movement, Edgar recognizes the disappeared larger-than-life reporter he’s been sent to replace, Barrington Saddler, as exactly the outsize character he longs to emulate. Infuriatingly, all his fellow journalists cannot stop talking about the beloved “Bear,” who is no longer lighting up their work lives.

Yet all is not as it appears. Os Soldados Ousados de Barba—“The Daring Soldiers of Barba”—have been blowing up the rest of the world for years in order to win independence for a province so dismal, backward, and windblown that you couldn’t give the rat hole away. So why, with Barrington vanished, do terrorist incidents claimed by the “SOB” suddenly dry up?

A droll, playful novel set in an alternative past on a fictional European peninsula, The New Republic is a fast-paced, plot-driven thriller. Addressing weighty issues like terrorism with a deft, tongue-in-cheek touch, Shriver presses the more intimate question: What makes charismatic people so magnetic, while the rest of us inspire a shrug? What’s their secret? And in the end, who has the better life—the admired, or the admirer?

First Sentence: "Whisking into his apartment house on West Eighty-Ninth Street, Edgar Kellogg skulked, eager to avoid eye contact with a doorman, who at least got a regular paycheck."

Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World is a very clever book. I read it a couple of years ago, and, although there were things I did not like about it, the good things definitely outweighed the bad. After I read that one, Shriver got put on my list of authors to watch, which is why I requested this one, despite the disgusting cover (note: I hate smoking).

Immediately, I was once again impressed by Shriver's incredibly writing talent. I love the way she writes; there were so many stellar quotes. The writing is definitely the best part of this book. Edgar I never really attached to as a character, as he's like me but only in the worst ways (The Judgment Express is currently leaving the station).

I also really appreciated her coverage of the theme of popularity. Certainly, I have known some of those people that others just gravitate to and desperately want to be best friends with. Obviously, this gets covered a lot in YA books, but isn't something that's done too much in books for adults, even though jealousy and cliques do not exactly go away, even if the effect is often minimized just by the fact that you're not generally stuck together in big groups like in high school/college.

Unfortunately, the second half of the novel really dragged for me, as the focus switched more to satire and terrorism. Although I do think Shriver has done something very clever, it wasn't especially for me. The more politically-inclined will likely really enjoy what Shriver has done here. If politics aren't your thing, I would recommend starting with one of Shriver's other novels.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "At only ten a.m., Edgar found himself already eyeing the Doritos on the counter. One thing he hadn't anticipated about the 'home office' was Snack Syndrome; lately his mental energies divided evenly between his new calling (worrying about money, which substituted neatly for earning it) and not stuffing his face."

"I know that's hard to believe
But there are people you meet
They're into something that is too big to be
Through their clothes
And they'll put up with all the poses you throw
And you won't
Even know"

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Anonymous Christina Kit. said...

It's great that the theme of fitting in and popularity is finally covered by such a great author!

Great quote:)

April 1, 2012 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Love that quote so much. It's right at the beginning, and, as awesome as some of the other quotes were, I just loved that one so much.

April 1, 2012 at 8:15 PM  

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