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The Mere Future

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  125 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
For a nation that elected Barack Obama as president, here is the first novel of the new era: The Mere Future, by award-winning novelist, activist, and playwright Sarah Schulman, set in a utopian (or is it dystopic?) future vision of New York City. The city has morphed into what appears to be an idealized version of itself, the result of what the new mayor calls "The Big Ch ...more
Hardcover, 184 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Arsenal Pulp Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Oct 09, 2011 Andrew rated it really liked it
Spending money was now what we did at home. When no one was looking. This stuff on the street was fluff. A diversion.

We were marketed to at work, where we felt employed.

But once we stepped outside of the office, there was none of it. Not a trace.

Sophinisba had realized that the most traumatic and marking things in a person’s life happen in secret, in private. They often involve cruelty from someone you love or at least know. All of us are used to this. We don’t like it, but it’s now familiar to
Aug 06, 2012 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Brilliant, witty satire of New York (and thus world) gentrification -- the culture, the desires, the imperatives. Takes place in a not too distant future in which basically everything white people in the east village and park slope want comes to pass: no more corporate branding, everything's a cute little boutique, there's a black lesbian mayor, affordable housing for all, etc. etc. And yet everyone keeps their marketing jobs. Too good to be true? No, but too good not to exist within the same (a ...more
Sep 14, 2013 Jillian rated it really liked it
Shelves: recent-books
Although billed as a utopian novel, my favorite part of the story lies with our first person-narrator and her beloved Nadine. They live in NYC, under a new mayor named Sophinisba, who moves all advertisements and branding and all major chain stores off the streets and into, exclusively, the homes. She also lowers rent so that people want to stay at home, clicking through ads, and making purchases. The conceit is visionary, vast and somewhat messy. I like the book for its tender evocation of a lo ...more
Larry-bob Roberts
Feb 25, 2010 Larry-bob Roberts rated it really liked it
This is probably Schulman's most unconventional novel; even more so than Empathy. It's set in a future New York where there has recently been a political Change. A new woman is mayor who has removed all advertising removed. And there are various other equitable changes put in place. But there is something disquieting about this utopia.

Many of Schulman's recurrent themes are here; withholding of affection, communication breakdown, familial cruelty, institutionalized heterosexism.
Mar 04, 2011 Ray rated it liked it
I think Sarah Schulman is hands-down one of the best writers alive today. So I feel like I only have myself to blame for not really getting this book. I got it I guess in pieces: capitalism is an insidious cancer; heterosexism is forever; and connecting to other people is hard. Beyond that though, there was a lot that went over my head. That said, every author is entitled to write something a little inscrutable and since Schulman is normally pretty direct there was something interesting about th ...more
Jeremy Preacher
Jan 05, 2011 Jeremy Preacher rated it liked it
On the one hand, this is a thoughtful essay about modern culture, the effects of the internet, and the tension between the values we think we hold versus the ones we'll actually defend. On the other, it's a set of rambling character sketches of mostly unlikeable people and an eyeroll-worthy manufactured denouement. On the gripping hand, it's a well-crafted prose poem that goes on a bit too long to be entirely readable.

So did I like it? In order: yes, no, and eh.
Jeff Raymond
Jul 09, 2010 Jeff Raymond rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-sci-fi
A sort of future-history piece about…well…I don’t know. It took place in a city with a charismatic mayor who tried to do stuff but wasn’t very good at it and really just hid problems, and…yeah. I don’t know. This book was not great. Or even good. I feel like I missed something early, but I can’t say the story made me care enough to double check. Pass.
Jul 12, 2011 Jenn rated it it was amazing
This book should be read aloud! Schulman's word-play is brilliant, and the twists of plot and prose alike are laugh-out-loud funny. That being said, this IS political satire, and you're laughing because the story hits all too close to home.
Bill Currie
Mar 06, 2013 Bill Currie rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Stopped half way...
Put it down happily...
Media Hub this...
Media Hub that...
Unhappy people everywhere...
Everyone using one another...
Reality is bad enough so we don't have to make it worse than it is...
Feb 11, 2014 Marcy rated it liked it
I quite enjoyed the concept for the novel. The utopian dystopia scene Schulman created, although once the economic secrets are revealed it's quite horrifying! But the characters were not as compelling as in her earlier novels. Regardless it's well worth the read.
Jul 19, 2014 Arielle88 rated it really liked it
Sarah Schulman’s writing could be the mirror image of Jeanette Winterson’s. Winterson’s books tend to start with an intriguing premise and fascinating first half, but end a little disappointingly. Schulman’s books tend to start off slow, but they eventually get in your head and leave you changed.

The first half of The Mere Future is slow moving and meandering - but in the second half plotlines come together, themes coalesce and the story gets under your skin.

This is a book for our liberal age. As
Feb 10, 2012 Christopher rated it liked it
My first time reading anything by Sarah Schulman. I think upon reading this, I like her a lot more than I like this book. As a satirical not-really-dystopian (but maybe dystopian! maybe!) future story, it did for me what I enjoy from Vonnegut or Burroughs - Schulman serves up Big Ideas, most of them for the sake of a laugh, some of them worth a laugh and a fleeting "hmm, that could actually happen...or how nice if it did..." moment. As an architect of futures that could be, I had a great time wi ...more
J Chritsian
Jan 22, 2016 J Chritsian rated it really liked it
It's weird reading a lot of Sarah Schulman all at once. It's weird reading a lot of anybody all at once, although that is my current tendency. Probably college's fault. I read something by someone and I like it, I read more by them and I like it, and at a point around book #3 if I am lucky the tone and matters of each book coalesce into a screen or watery layer and some preoccupations begin to emerge. Here we see gentrification, AIDS, parents in New York and outside of New York, families. What i ...more
Danika at The Lesbrary
This was a puzzling book to me. The Mere Future takes place “In the future, when things are slightly better because there has been a big change.” I was expecting a dystopia, but I finished the book still not certain whether things were, in fact, slightly better. “The big change” is a political one, involving housing costs plummeting (eliminating homelessness) and a ban of chain stores and public advertising in New York. Also, the “Media Hub” provides almost all employment.

The characters, however
Apr 28, 2010 Liza marked it as will-i-ever-finish-these-books
I accidentally returned this to NYPL before I finished it. I'll have to hang out at the Muhlenberg branch one day and read the last few pages. I will say that I felt as though Schulman and I are kindred spirits due to all her hilariously brilliant--to me--word-play and absurdist criticism of modern society, especially my old NYC home. (The thoughts that float about in my mind-brain that I lack the eloquence--or courage?--to communicate. Actually, I'm just lazy.) The first part of the book was ex ...more
Oct 23, 2015 Leanna rated it liked it
The summary of the book is kind of misleading... The murder, trial, and aftermath happen toward the very end of the book during the last (pretty short) 10 chapters. And it wasn't really such a big mystery how the city's Change is funded as Nadine realizes about halfway through and it's nothing too surprising. I really enjoyed the voice of the narrator/writing style and the idea that even if things seem perfect they're the same if not worse. I loved how much the narrator loves Nadine, and how Sch ...more
Mar 13, 2015 Rambox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Part-fiction, part autobiography, part critical theory think piece, part stand-up-comedy act, part battle-cry-of-the-resistance, part therapy for the traumatised: to evaluate this book as being only one of those things is to find it coming up short; take it as all of them, and it becomes a fun experience and a gateway. Light, cheeky, sincere, cynical and thought-provoking, I enjoyed this book without expectations although, as with some movies, I can see how others with expectations might have fo ...more
Mar 21, 2012 Amy rated it it was ok
Shelves: distopian, queer, fiction
Honestly? I was disappointed. This was my first Sarah Schulman fiction novel. It was a series of interesting meanderings and philosophy with fictional character guides. There was little in the way of plot or character development. There really weren't any elements of "story" present at all. The jacket promised that incorporated elements from "every literary genre." Or, more accurately, none. I'm not sure what her point even is other than "beware the pervasive nature of social marketing or soon e ...more
Sarah Schulman lures us in with a tale of dramatic changes after a new mayor is elected in New York City -- the mayor builds so much low-income housing that even the cost of rent goes down to somewhere around $65 for a conveniently-located one bedroom; chain stores are outlawed; homelessness comes to an end, but what are the costs? Oh, no -- the costs! That’s where The Mere Future rips us to shreds.
Jenna Vinson
I wanted to like this, but I just couldn't. If I had to describe this in one word, it would be obnoxious. The self-awareness of the narrator was pretentious, and the "satire" felt too obvious to land. I really thought this was going to be great because I've liked her other work, but I think I'll have to stick to Schulman's non-fiction going forward.
Lucy Amalia Turner
Nov 17, 2012 Lucy Amalia Turner rated it really liked it
Peculiar, snarky, ravishing--this is without a doubt an oddball of a book that won't be for everyone. It is also the only novel I can think of that dramatizes the ways in which the language of advertising penetrates deep into our private lives, and I love it for that.
Chris Wolak
Sep 10, 2011 Chris Wolak rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt
Seriously amazing social commentary. I'll write a longer review after my second reading. I'm leading a book group discussion on it next month and need a second reading to be on the ball enough for that.
Rebecca Curtis
I liked it more than I thought but not as much as I wanted to. The dystopian was odd and sometimes hard to follow and the content too violently graphic. The themes are provoking and worth the read.
Jun 08, 2010 Colin rated it liked it
3.5 stars on this one. Clever and occasionally witty pithy futuristic social and political commentary. Well, ok.
Nikki Morse
Jul 29, 2013 Nikki Morse rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Not my favorite of hers, but I still enjoyed it. There are some wonderful turns of phrases and imagery.
Jun 24, 2010 Ocean rated it liked it
this book has a lot of great moments, but they don't weave together to form a cohesive whole. i feel like the heterosexual romance subplot didn't add anything besides confusion to the book.
Carma Spence
Oct 14, 2011 Carma Spence rated it really liked it
You can read my review of this book at the New York Journal of Books here:
Jul 25, 2014 Winnie rated it did not like it
I'm sorry but I didn't like this book at all. Couldn't relate to it. Most of it made no sense to me whatsoever.
Dec 01, 2012 Lisa rated it it was ok
Clever, with a couple of satirical observations worth remembering, as a novel it just didn't leave me with anything.
Feb 12, 2014 Catherine rated it liked it
Some interesting ideas in this, but I find Schulman's writing style frenetic and exhausting.
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Sarah Schulman is a longtime AIDS and queer activist, and a cofounder of the MIX Festival and the ACT UP Oral History Project. She is a playwright and the author of seventeen books, including the novels The Mere Future, Shimmer, Rat Bohemia, After Delores, and People in Trouble, as well as nonfiction works such as The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, My American History: ...more
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“You have to notice the truth in order to be able to avoid it.” 7 likes
“You’re not user-friendly. You’re too needy. You have no social currency. You’re a freak. Without a normative side, you can’t get in. That’s it. Sorry.” 6 likes
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