Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World
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Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  432 ratings  ·  60 reviews
"A dark, suburban fantasy . . . richly funny, even whimsical, and bizarrely familiar." —The New YorkerIn the seaside community of Donald Antrim’s Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, the citizens are restless. The mayor has fired stinger missiles into the Botanical Garden reflecting pool, and his public execution was a messy affair. As these hawkish suburbanites fortify...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Picador (first published 1993)
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Jeffrey Eugeniges in his fanboy introduction says that when he first read this

I was suddenly pulled into a never-before-experienced realm : the sunken world of a strange and marvelous book. Elect Mr Robinson for a Better World is that very rare thing : a book without antecedents.

O Jeffrey Eugenides, you may be very sweet
But I feel your education has been somewhat incomplete

Kafka (1915)
K. was informed by telephone that there would be a small hearing concerning his case the following Sunday. He...more
I can't remember how I first learned of this book, but I seem to recall hearing it was about a teacher who decides to run for mayor.
And it is. But...

Let's take a look at the last line of the first paragraph:

I want to call to Helen, to wave and exchange greetings, but I know she'll never acknowledge me after the awful things that happened to little Sarah Miller, early last week, down in my basement.


Then there's this:

Many picnickers died that day. I recall Ray walking up Main, oblivious to t...more
There is a lot going for this novel, beginning with the beautiful and restrained language. Atrium can paint a lovely sentence, and it is a tone of paranoia and acceptance that saturates nearly every sentence that makes the increasingly surreal world make a kind of dream logic sense. There are moments of outright political satire (the american public voting to defund all schooling), but this is largely about about communities, and the insanity of our rituals in the face of larger, more pressing m...more
Antrim is truly one of a kind. He twists the small town world in a way that is horrifying at the same time that it feels completely normal (in an insane kind of way, of course). The mundane and the utterly bizarre are just so perfectly blended, the same way that humor and tragedy are blended, that I couldn't help but love this book. I found myself feeling several contradictory things while reading, but I was feeling nevertheless. In short, this is some amazing writing. I was enthralled from the...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A blackly humorous satirical tale of suburbia descending into anarchy as the good people of a small Florida town progressively fortify their houses and resort to medieval justice and warfare. The titular Mr Robinson is our narrator, a man moved by his obsession with torture dungeons and his vocation as a teacher. Pete Robinson struggles to stay on track as he seeks locations to bury the remains of the drawn and quartered mayor, Osiris like, and makes plans for his new school and a campaign to be...more
This black comedy and satire of suburban angst is both delicious and appalling. Somewhere in a place very much like Florida the neighbors are installing black moccasin-infested moats and the public park is disputed territory in clan warfare (watch out for the landmines). The elementary school has been converted in a factory, and one former educator (the titular Mr. Robinson) bides his time creating a 1:32 scale model of a medieval dungeon/torture chamber. On his offhand advice the ex-mayor is dr...more
Josh Luft
Published in 1993, Donald Antrim's Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World can be perceived as a remarkably prescient metaphor to post-9/11 America. The seaside suburban community where the action of the novel takes place is a microcosm of the fear- and warmongering, the hostility, and the hysteria that was prevalent in the politics, media, and communities of this country in the early 2000s. You've got every family building deadly pits in their yards with only a vague sense of unrest as a reason....more
Le 170 pagine più lunghe della mia vita!! Premetto che provo un odio profondo per i libri senza capitoli, faccio davvero fatica a leggerli, per quanto accattivanti possano essere. Aggiungiamo che qui, oltre a non esserci capitoli, non c'erano neanche paragrafi staccati da uno spazio, neanche uno ogni tanto, dico, neanche per sbaglio...e a tutto questo, aggiungiamo anche che per 150 pagine su 170 si fa fatica a capire dove si voglia andare a parare, e che le ultime 20 pagine non fanno che conferm...more
Tim Wood
Oct 21, 2012 Tim Wood marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
By LYDIA KIESLING posted at 6:00 am on July 27, 2012

On three occasions I have performed my civic duty and worked as a poll inspector on election day, an experience for which I reaped the pride of performing one’s civic duty and 150 U.S. dollars.On the occasion of the 2008 primary election, I assisted a gentleman who, like many San Francisco citizens believing themselves to have registered as independent voters, had in fact checked the box for the far-far-r...more
Welcome to my review. I had a hard time deciding how many stars to give this. I mean I have given so many books 5 and this is almost as good as those books logically then a solid four stars, but this feels like a 3 star book. I think 5 stars maybe too many for me to handle and I may begin only using ratings of 1, 3 and 5. 1 being this book should never have been written. 3 being okay but I could have lived without it and 5 being I can't believe I didn't read this book 10 years ago. And actually...more
Patrick Nichols
Another one of those quotidian novels set in an unhinged universe (which all owe some debt of gratitude to Philip K Dick). The book takes place in a staid seaide town with a relaxed attitude towards extreme violence: the local park is studded with landmines and the residents one-up each other to see who has the most elegant death-pit in their yard.

Our eponymous hero is a pedantic, though personable schoolteacher attempting to start up an elementary school in his dank basement (the town's only s...more
Shannon Cruthirds
I have not read something this well written in a long time. Antrim's language is formal and fastidious without being fussy. The result is pitch-perfect. The setting is surreal to the point that it takes on a life of its own, becomes a character in its own right. It sounds like the Truman Show, but with fortifications and bulwarks. Pete's unraveling is quiet, complete, and rendered in subtleties that would be easy to miss because of the beguiling readability and tone of Pete as a narrator. The sa...more
Donald Antrim’s debut novel, originally published in 1993 and re-released last year by Granta, with a foreword by Jeffrey Eugenides, reads like a fresh satire on contemporary America. Whether this is down to the author’s great prescience, or the failings of political leaders to make progress beyond the final years of the George Bush administration, is up for debate. What’s obvious is that this hilarious and fantastical novel is well worthy of your attention.

Antrim works in the genre of American...more
This book was given to me by a friend at work, and it is very strange. I will not put in a spoiler, but I was shocked by the end of the book, and it left me wondering whether it is actually very good. I think it is actually an extremely intelligent book, and cynically honest about human nature. But it is very, very weird.

The thing that is genius about this book is that it makes you like the main character, despite the fact that he is clearly unhinged and does terrible things. I am not sure anyo...more
John Pappas
The best of the trilogy, and, to me, the key to understanding The Verificationist and The Hundred Brothers. Antrim gives us, in this novel, a suburban America where violence is so normalized, so banalized, that home-owners create elaborate moats, fences, punjab pits and other defenses to scare away potential threatening visitors. The mayor, drawn and quartered by Toyotas after firing a Stinger missle into the Botanical Garden, states that all of the members of this sea-side community are "murder...more
Wow. Reminiscent of White Noise. Due to a private family feud held on public land, and the exploding of Stinger Rockets in a town square which kill many; citizens of Mr. Robinson's town adopt moats, mines and other devices to arm and protect their homes. Mr. Robinson, who previously worked as a public school teacher prior to the closing of public services due to violence, and has a surfeit of knowledge on the history of torture, decides to open up a school for the local children in his home.
I re...more
This satirical novella offers plenty of outrageousness and wit, with its descriptions of a suburban Florida ocean-side town sliding into paranoia and the post-apocalyptic. Mr. Robinson, a former 3rd grade teacher, really thinks he is a source of reason who can save the town-- with slogans like: "PETE ROBINSON FOR PEACE ON EARTH" or "A VOTE FOR ROBINSON IS A VOTE FOR SANITY." Despite the whimsical and ridiculous setting, there is a lot to find familiar, I thought it would be more cartoonish than...more
A strange tale of a town gone badly wrong. Houses are surrounded with snake/bamboo/glass-filled pits, feuding families have littered the park with land-mines and Pete Robinson, having arranged for the drawing and quartering of the mayor, is preparing the school he is setting up in his basement. He is fascinated by torture and has a model of a torture chamber in the schoolroom, what influence is he going to be on the students?

The cover said 'hilarious', well I didn't laugh out loud but I certainl...more
An absurdist satire with some hilarious moments and some tedious passages. There were also a couple of real "ugh" moments of disgust. I feel like it wasn't hilarious enough for me to love it and it didn't enrage me enough to hate it, so here we are stuck in the middle.

Really good book....so very sharp and thought provoking. I found most of the novel to be both surreal, yet strangely plausible at the same time. Could we as a society ever get to the point at which this community found itself? Sometimes I'm not sure I can say no.

I thought the scene in the park where the "Neanderthals" were discussing the merits of the books they were throwing at the possible landlines to be particularly funny.

I feel like we were definitely given glimpses into Pete's way of think...more
Adrian Alvarez
Imagine David Lynch collaborating with Alexander Payne and you've got something close, but not quite as interesting as this book. I've found a kindred spirit here. Antrim's prose style carries the reader along as though he were a leaf on briskly moving creek. He is able to make wildly imaginative leaps, transitioning from past to present memory, yet still maintain a coherent undertow of pathos. This book has everything I look for in a story (though I would consider this a novel length short stor...more
Nov 03, 2007 Jay rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: absurdists
Shelves: fiction
A completely scathing social satire that's possibly one of the funniest things I've read. I laughed out loud, I winced, and I gave it away immediately.

It's the story of this fellow in this small American town who tries to open a school so that he can become mayor or somesuch. But it's more a commentary on how incredibly insecure people can be, and consequently, how horrible and utterly absurd they can be to one another. For example: Look for the scene where the pack of men walk around the park t...more
Had some lovely prose but the ending was weird and creepy. Obviously that was Antrim's intention and...I would like to read more of his work, to see if it is ALL that strange. Interesting.
Bold, hilarious, disturbing, brief, fun?, fantastical, and in some odd way relatable on a metaphorical level.
Brilliant book. 5-star talent, and understandably a 5-star read for some. (I'm loyal to the "like it" rating scale.)

I've read some reviews where people stumbled upon the book, or were given the book, and started reading without really knowing what it's about and how it's told. Don't do that.

If you do read this book, take your time. I read it too quickly and may read it again.

It's dark and disturbing and funny and astute. As the story goes on, you can tell something is going to go very wrong. And...more
I usually give books longer before I quit them, but I only made it about 30 pages in this one. I could have stuck it out and read the whole thing, but I just really wasn't enjoying where the plot was going. I think, for someone who wanted something more anarchic / out of the ordinary / whatever, this could have been a good book - it just wasn't what I was interested in reading.

In short, maybe not a bad book, but a bad choice on my part.
Disturbing and funny. But not ha-ha funny. It's "don't touch me there" funny.

The paranoia and fear mongering, combined with the "keeping up with the Jones" mentality of all the suburbanites makes this novella feel very timely.

I still finished the book feeling like I missed an essential key to the satire of the piece, so this is definitely a book to pass on and talk about.

Maybe I'm too conventional or suburban or vanilla or whatever, but the ending of this book does not work for me. While I expected something bad to happen -- something other than what did happen -- I held out hope that I would be wrong. There were many funny scenes, albeit quite dark. They are not worth how I feel after finishing this book. Thus, my low rating.
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Donald Antrim is an American novelist. His first novel, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, was published in 1993. In 1999 The New Yorker named him as among the twenty best writers under the age of forty.

Antrim is a frequent contributor of fiction to The New Yorker and has written a number of critically acclaimed novels, including The Verificationist and The Hundred Brothers, which was a finali...more
More about Donald Antrim...
The Hundred Brothers The Verificationist The Afterlife Doug DuBois: All the Days and Nights The Emerald Light in the Air: Short Story

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