A bitterly funny broadside on market-driven contemporary life.
In Middle City, a firm of marketing gurus—Tomorrow Ltd.—sniff the winds of change for any new trend or desire. Ursula Van Arden meets with co-worker Javier, who’s tragically poetic, and with boss Chas, who’s imposing (“He doesn’t look like other men, he looks like their impossible expectations for themselves”), in a playground where, like the ever-vigilant angels in Wings of Desire, they compare notes. Ursula is a former struggling artist trying to come to terms with her new life of surface-worshipping fetish-study and probably falling in love with Javier. The savage girl of the title is a homeless, apparently mute, mohawked teenager Ursula spied one day and who has become the inspiration for the latest “trend” Tomorrow Ltd. is pushing: the savage look. Soon, the group has talked a client into using the look to advertise their newest product—diet water—with Ursula’s schizophrenic sister as model. Ursula justifies her new career by listening to Javier, “This man who rhapsodizes about bubble pipes and weaves divinity into fishtail hems.” Once the savage look is launched, however, a new crisis emerges: it seems that Gen-X irony just isn’t working on preadolescent “tween” consumers, and so the agents of change launch themselves into their newest campaign: post-irony. Fortunately realizing that satirizing a world already oversaturated with unreal advertising and target marketing is a tricky deal, first-time novelist Shakar (City in Love, stories, 1996) pushes his story into the outer edges of fantasy while somehow keeping it rooted in the vicissitudes of the MTV age. The result is a crystalline satire of a preening media elite too exhausted with pillaging the minds of consumers to notice the collapsing world around them.
With the crafty-eyed precision of Don DeLillo and the humor of Neal Stephenson, a world where image is life and the Next Big Thing is a mouse-click away.