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Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
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's review
Apr 03, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in April, 2012

LIGHTNING RODS. (2012). Helen DeWitt. **.
This author’s first book, “The Last Samurai,” has received lots of praise, including a favorble review from A. S. Byatt in “The New York Times.” This novel, stated to be her second one, though it is a bit confusing as a middle title is also mentioned, attempts to develop a satire on the American Dream that will hold up for the length of a book. It doesn’t work. We meet Joe. Joe is the average go-getter type of person who believes that if you work hard enough at something you believe in, you will be successful. He finds that he is wrong. His new motto is: “You have to treat people as you find them, not as you would like them to be.” After several attempts at sales, encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners, he decides that he needs to come up with an original idea that addresses the needs of potential customers as they actually exist. What he does come up with is an idea to eliminate the harmful effects of sexual harassment in the workplace by providing an alternative form of relief. He calls this the “Lightning Rod.” The Lightning Rod is a woman – or group of women – who work at the company in question and appear to be just normal employees, but but provide anonymous sexual relief on demand. Anonymity is key. The clients are usually the super performers in the company who have the largest drive to succeed, and usually the largest amounts of excess testosterone. It would be provided as a perk in a setting where both parties remain unknown to each other. What initially happens is that Joe encounters all of the problems endemic to any HR department that have to be solved to allow him to continue his project. His intended clients are slow to come around at first, but soon find that productivity increases and morale increases with time. they have become steady customers. There are, obviously, setbacks along the way, but Joe prevails. Like I said, if you take all of this semi-seriously, it’s difficult to maintain interest. It lost mine.

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