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Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: A Novel

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,215 ratings  ·  151 reviews
"A dark, suburban fantasy . . . richly funny, even whimsical, and bizarrely familiar." —The New Yorker

In 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 fort
ebook, 192 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Picador (first published 1993)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  1,215 ratings  ·  151 reviews

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Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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, obl
Richard Derus
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Real Rating: 3.5* of five

My Young Gentleman Caller hefted a bin for me today, its lid slipped, and this book bonked his noggin. Bin safely deposited, piffling nature of injury established (to my satisfaction if not his, I suspect he was angling for sympathy/guilt banana bread as his desire for more of that comestible is a refrain in our recent conversations), I picked up the book and was right back in the Sixth Avenue B. Dalton circa 1994. (The receipt tells me I bought the book December 8, 1994
Paul Bryant
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
Feb 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dennis Jacob
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rarely am I as conflicted about a book as with "Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World"! Antrim clearly knows what he's doing. He creates a dark dystopian future that resembles our own time enough to make things scary. His prose is wonderful and the sequence where Robinson contemplates the events that have transpired worm themselves into ones subconscious. Mankind is coming ever closer to a breaking point. A paradigm shift seems the only solution unless we want to pursue the violent path we're on ...more
Mark Joyce
Starts out promisingly enough and the cool, forensic way in which Antrim describes the ritualized public execution of the town's ex-Mayor is particularly compelling. But the switch into outright surrealism is too abrupt and ultimately feels gratuitous. The central themes of collective nervous breakdown and identity crisis are interesting and with more subtle development could potentially have been edging into Kafka-esque territory. In the end it felt more like sitting through somebody else's sli ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, let it be known that I'm a sucker for bizarro fiction. The weirder and more absurd, the better. I loved last year's Welcome to Night Vale, and found it a perfect balance between humor and offbeat horror. Here, though, Donald Antrim concocts nothing short of a failure!

From first reading the synopsis, I was in. Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World seemed right up my alley in terms of genre: social satire, darker than black humor, and a tones of underlying dread. It had all of that,
Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
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
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Preposterous! As if townfolk would really commit atrocities between small talk. As if neighbors would wave to each other behind grins armed to the teeth. As if the means of logic were indifferent to any ends. As if educated people would cling to any feelgood claptrap. As if we would fret over the kitchen sink, uneven hedgetrimming, the right style of bow tie knot when the roof is falling, tide is rising, food supply vanishing. As if... it's yesterday's news, known and nugatory, and the only plac ...more
John Pappas
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well now... That was rather disturbing. No spoilers, but I think you'll agree that Mr. Pete Robinson is creepy from the start. The final scenes bear this out. But what is Robinson? What part does he play in this little drama of small town life that takes a sharp turn into the bizarre? Antrim is an amazing writer. I'll keep his books on my list of guilty pleasures (if pleasure is the correct word to use).
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
On paper, this book seemed like a sure win for me. Dark, macabre humor, a surreal yet mundane setting, a confusing and unreliable narrator, a glimpse of civilization as it breaks down into something primal and sounded thrilling. Ultimately though, it felt like too many ideas went into the oven and all of them came out either half-baked or burnt.

I don't normally write reviews, but after finishing this book I found myself nagged by all the other books I've read recently that have tac
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Barbara McEwen
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super weird! But weirder than current American society? Marginally... Some disturbing satire if you are in such a mood.
Josh Friedlander
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pomo
A portrait of a normal, middle American town blighted with lunatic episodes of violence, which everyone accepts as ordinary. The narrative voice is restrained, erudite, exact, but also echoes with a taut anxiety reminiscent of Charlie Kaufmann's best films (say Being John Malkovich and the first half of Adaptation). Barthelme's influence is clear; Antrim may be a little funnier, a little more caustic, a little more unhinged. Like his protagonist, he's willing to take the joke all the way to its ...more
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Frightening and depressing. Also witty and imaginative. overall, though, i'd have to read it again more carefully to say if it works as some sort of cautionary tale and/or indictment of human nature and/or the author's voluntary trip to purgatory.
Jennifer Taw
Oct 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thing is, it's such a bizarre book, and unpleasant, but so thought-provoking. Jeffrey Eugenides proclaims in the forward that there's nothing like it (though I think Edward Scissorhands, which came out a few years before Mr. Robinson, has quite a bit of the same energy, if considerably sweeter). Antrim has taken the quotidian world and just twisted it a tiny, tiny bit, enough to set it askew, with bits spinning off into insanity. So everything feels familiar (at least if you've lived in the ...more
Tim Wood
Oct 21, 2012 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-
Hobart Mariner
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Vel Veeter
This is a novel that feels like it owes a lot to Don Delillo and J.G. Ballard, and is a kind of more sardonic George Saunders. And it also feels like a novel that I would have loved or at least loved the idea of in my early 20s. I still liked it, but over the course of the novel, the conceit and the execution drifted farther and farther apart for me and by the end I was very much ready for it to be over. In addition, this is the second time I had given it a shot and by the time I got 30 pages in ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is horrifying. It is about a man who has extreme delusions, living within a society which has equal delusions. As a whole, it shows how societies can teach and change their children, and how much humans can adapt to and accept. The tone of the book is so matter of fact that it tempts the reader to also accept as normal the brutal goings on at the same time that it shocks with such acceptance.

The adults in the book still live in two worlds: able to perpetrate and become horrified by vio
Michael Brown
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads
This is a sick, sick book and an enjoyable read. Something has gone very wrong in Pete Robinson's hometown, but nobody seems to notice it. They just carry on as usual, as if the world were always that way, building moats filled with broken glass or serpents around their houses to protect themselves from untrustworthy neighbors. Two of the town's families are having a gunfighting feud in the parks. The citizens have recently drawn and quartered the mayor and Pete is burying his body parts and thi ...more
Sep 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the pitch black humor of the opening scene (a town's mayor is being drawn and quartered with cars, but has to wait for his imminent execution because one of the cars won't start), I thought I was going to really like this. It was just okay.

Take the suburban satire of Tom Perotta and turn it up to 11, add in the psychosis of Patrick Bateman and turn it down to 8, mix in some of the sex and violence of Palahniuk, and top it off with the stream-of-consciousness confession of Portnoy's Com
I can't say that I enjoyed this story or even liked it. :/ I felt it could have been more humorous and less grotesque. It starts out intriguing but by the end it was like an accident you can't look away from but know you should.

I think the introduction by Jeffrey Eugenides gives you the highlights without having to read it and he pumps it up to sound profound and important. I couldn't get all that excited about it after the introduction. It also didn't help that there were no chapter breaks or s
Steve Schrader
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well I don’t know what to say. Certainly a bizarre story, lead character and town but well written with a good imagination and sense of humor. I do think the introduction gave away too much of the story and wasn’t really needed.

I liked how the lead character as everything got crazy always rationalized it by the importance of him being a teacher and teaching.

It is a quick read and I would recommend it if you like novels that are just a little off.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
“They back up, the gutters, choking muck. The skies blacken, moisture descends, canals rise, lawns puddle, the unswept streets slowly fill. Everything, houses and stores, gas stations and banks, all the landmarks of my happy life in this place I love—everything seems to be sinking.”

How very odd and claustrophobic! Not sure what to make of this (especially the ending).
Jun 22, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I honestly did not like this book at all. I thought that the characters would develop more, but they were all pretty horrible people. Well, the main character was a pretty horrible person, which is why I did not like the book very much. This is not something I would recommend anyone to spend time reading.
Bryan Fox
Jun 13, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not witty enough to be satire, not interesting enough to be worth reading. I suppose there's a unique premise in here, but the author does nothing with it. Nothing happens at all, really. It must have been easier to get published 25 years ago. This book isn't even 200 pages long, yet it was still an immense struggle to finish it.
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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

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