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Preview — Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
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4 stars, with reservations.
As a kid, I would scan the movie section of The Western Catholic most wanting to see the films that had been given the Condemned rating and those in a category called For Adults with Reservations. The value of the Condemned category to this pervy kid was obvious. The For Adults with Reservations rating was not as self-evident, and for me, seemed to indicate that the films in this category, while not generally a good idea for catholics to see, were at least OK as long a...more
However, at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, De Witt spins a funny enough yarn but she’s skating on fairly thin ice.
It has to be said in her defence that she rolls out this ‘penetrating’ tale with her tongue placed firmly in her cheek and once you take that on board, things fall into place quick as lightning.
The main character, a failed...more
Readers who like to laugh should read this one: the first hundred pages seemed to have 1+ LOLs per page. Sometimes reminded me of George Saunders, Michel Houllebe...more
why, install "lightning rods" service in your office to sate the inevitable urges of your top sales performers by giving them the opportunity for anonymous release! plus! you'll get extra use out of the disabled bathrooms! not to mention adequate office skills from a fine pool of temporary employees!
the protagonist of lightning rods is joe, a salesman who hits upon this business venture after failing to succeed in the do...more
"The sand near the road was choppy, warm where the sun hit, cool where the hollows were in shade. Then the sand was firm and ribbed, and then it was flat and wet. The line of pelican...more
Joe, stuck in a dead-end job selling vacuum cleaners, spends most of his days perfecting his masturbatory fantasies. In an effort to “build a better mousetrap,” Joe comes up with an ingenious method of eliminating sexual harassment claims in the workplace. The idea? Lightning Rods. Women, who on the surface appear to be perfectly capable/qualified support staff, but are also willing to take one for the team, if you will.
I love good sa...more
I was prepared to be grossed out by this book. I only read it because it was on the Tournament of Books list, pitted against Salvage the Bones, of all things. After all, reading about a loser who turns his sexual fantasies into a profitable business is not something a self-respecting feminist does.
Who knew that Helen DeWitt has actually created a feminist attack on not only sexual exploitation but also sales as a profession, corporate life, men in general, and much more. She did this without pre...more
Like bourbon, this book is more about stripping paint than nourishing or softly soothing. It's funny and gross, but also very...more
Does this mean the book is perfect, that it has no errors to its name? No, not by a long shot, but the errors, as happens in all great literature, add r...more
But here I am, backed head first into a sink, my face Prude Purple. The team one...more
Me: You know that book I've been reading all the time lately?
Me: Have I told you how crazy it is?
Wife: Not really. What's crazy about it?
Me: Well it's this really odd satire of sexual harassment in t...more
Let me say this: stupid isn't satire. Cardboard isn't commentary. Forced isn't funny. Good, funny, biting satire stakes out challenging positions on fresh new issues and blisters the reader with incision after incision after incision. See R...more
I was really looking forward to her second novel with a lot of anticipation. The wait has been a long one, since her marvellous The Last Samurai one of my fave books, which I have read at least 3 times, unusually for me. So I bought it at vast expense, on line, and fetched the hard-covered book (not available in paperback) this week, and read it very swiftly – it’s not a long book.
Once I’d got over the shock of this outrageous, shocking novel which – by the by – sho...more
The main character, Joe, often works out these arguments by talking to himself. He is the prototypical American visionary. And DeWitt gives us access into his crazy sexual fantasies. Fantasies which he then uses to succeed in business. The author has worked out every possible challenge to Joe's dream...more
I read the entire thing because I kept thinking, of course we will move on from the sex-in-the-workplace thing and it will have farther-reaching implications. But every time the narrator explicitly stated there were far-reaching implications (which happened quite a lot), it was less a commentary than a chain of reactions.
Even when I tried t...more
Yes, Joe is hopelessly stuck with his head up his own behind, fancying himself a sort of trailblazer, challenging the outdated sexual mores of the workplace and changing the world. The satire here is beautiful, as we mud...more
The basic plot is that Joe, a failed, floundering American salesman, comes up with this brilliant idea of providing the service of "lighting rods" in company offices. Lighting rods are "bifunctional employees" - women who provided anonymous sex through a hole in the bathroom wall to (exclusively male) high-powere...more
This book is, first off, insane. Not in a screaming/straightjacket way but in the way absurd, hyper-logical satire inherently has to be. Brilliant-borderline-sick stuff. It would come off as dry if DeWitt weren't so adept with raunch and humor and the combination of the two. There is no quiet chuc...more
The hook is definitely notable: a down on his luck door-to-door salesman repurposes his sexual fantasies as a product that can, he claims, deal with the aggressive sexual environment in the workplace. And the ideas that this spins off-- about gender, work, sex fantasies, etc, are all pretty deftly worked through here. On the level of ideas, th...more
Helen DeWitt’s newest book has gotten juicy reviews, and with good reason. Because this is a family-friendly review, I’ll describe the plot as delicately as I can: a salesman tries selling Encyclopedia Britannica and Electrolux vacuum cleaners, and fails. Then he tries selling something a little more risqué -- “Lightning Rods” -- to small c...more
(This will make more sense after you read it, which I think you should, because this book is the kind of Swiftian move that you don't really see being pulled off too often these days by people not named George Saunders. It is smart and weird and I think has things to say about sex and gender and business and po...more
Update: this book keeps me thinking. I like that. It made me laugh, and squirm, and then I still keep thinking about it days later. Dewitt puts forth some fine questions,...more
DeWitt grew up primarily in South America (Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador), as her parents worked in the United States diplomatic service. After a year at Northfield Mount Hermon School and two short periods at Smith College, DeWitt studied classics at the University of Oxford, first at Lady Margare...more
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If you don’t have what it takes, you can waste a lot of time asking yourself “How can I get what it takes?” The question you should be asking yourself is, “Is there something else that takes what I have to offer?” Because if there’s something you can succeed at, just the way you are, you won’t have to waste a lot of time trying to change yourself. Which you’re never going to be able to do, anyway.”