ASSUME THE WORST by Carl Hiaasen

ASSUME THE WORST

The Graduation Speech You'll Never Hear
by ; illustrated by
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two of the literary world’s most entertaining lighthearted cynics collaborate on a brief text that takes the form of a fake graduation speech.

“It’s pretty fucked up,” writes Hiaasen (Razor Girl, 2016, etc.) early on in the speech, referring to the “real world” that his imaginary graduates are preparing to enter. Accompanied by apt illustrations from New Yorker illustrator Chast (Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York, 2017, etc.), winner of the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award, this speech runs through a litany of life’s challenges and obstacles and how to overcome them (“lowering your expectations will inoculate you against serial disappointment”) followed by a shorter closing section in which Hiaasen turns more hopeful. After all, he does want his readers to experience happiness, but happiness is “slippery. It’s unpredictable. It’s a different sensation for everyone.” A good portion of the text discusses our highly divisive society and the prevalence of stupidity—or, more accurately, willful ignorance. Hiaasen is quick to point out that society as a whole may not be dumber than when he graduated college in 1974, but the social and cultural landscape is vastly different. “Society has been deeply divided before,” he writes, “but never has it been so inanely distracted. Don’t be shocked if more Americans can identify all the Kardashian sisters than can find Serbia on a world map.” Global geography aside, there’s no question that technology has shifted our gaze and often warped our perceptions of each other, and the text and illustrations here serve as a quick, amusing snapshot of that situation. Thankfully, underneath all the despair and snark—social media is “a geyser of ominous evidence that our species has begun to de-evolve, receding back to the slime bog from which we first emerged”—are glimmers of optimism, as in most of the work from both Hiaasen and Chast. “One thing happiness is not,” writes Hiaasen, “is overrated.”

Slim but pointed and humorous; a good gift for the neighbor’s kid’s graduation.

Pub Date: April 10th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-525-65501-5
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:




Kirkus Interview
Carl Hiaasen
author of RAZOR GIRL
November 7, 2016

In Razor Girl, Carl Hiaasen’s new novel, when Lane Coolman's car is bashed from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, what appears to be an ordinary accident is anything but. Behind the wheel of the other car is Merry Mansfield—the eponymous Razor Girl—and the crash scam is only the beginning of events that spiral crazily out of control while unleashing some of the wildest characters Hiaasen has ever set loose on the page. There's Trebeaux, the owner of Sedimental Journeys--a company that steals sand from one beach to restore erosion on another…Dominick "Big Noogie" Aeola, a NYC mafia capo with a taste for tropic-wear…Buck Nance, a Wisconsin accordionist who has rebranded himself as the star of a redneck reality show called Bayou Brethren…and Andrew Yancy—formerly Detective Yancy, busted down to the Key West roach patrol after accosting his then-lover's husband with a Dust Buster. Yancy believes that if he can singlehandedly solve a high-profile murder, he'll get his detective badge back. That the Razor Girl may be the key to Yancy's future will be as surprising as anything else he encounters along the way—including the giant Gambian rats that are livening up his restaurant inspections. “How can Hiaasen possibly tie together all this monkey business in the end?” our reviewer asks in a starred review. “His delirious plotting is so fine-tuned that preposterous complications that would strain lesser novelists fit right into his antic world. Relax, enjoy, and marvel anew at the power of unbridled fictional invention.” View video >

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