Glitch in the Machine

Swamp’s (The Gyre Mission: Journey to the *sshole of the World, 2012) comic and obscene cautionary tale pits the haves against the have-nots in a remarkably unpleasant future.
Having escaped the poverty of his childhood, claims adjuster Floyd Jasper is now gainfully employed by a large health insurance company. In a nightmarish near-future America suffering the ill effects of post–Citizens United election-buying, he has, because of his profession, become a supremely unpopular man. Just as 99 percent of the U.S. is poor, 99 percent of the insurance company’s claims are denied. The sick have three choices: pay in full, start a payment plan with 75 percent interest, or be executed. Floyd delights in the gruesome nature of the job: though he was born poor, he nevertheless considers these unfortunate souls to be nothing but vermin. Few things weigh heavily on his conscience as he murders, rapes women, and shoots annoying kids in the street. Nevertheless, he is a scathing and wry critic of the oppressive government, the delusional media, and the rich. His intense love for his brother is often on his mind, and a torrid affair with co-worker Gloria Estrella opens up a new dimension in his career and personal life. The mysterious death of his colleague Carl Winters as well as a fateful encounter with a 700-pound woman lead Floyd to believe he’s being stalked, so he goes on the run with Gloria. As he grows into an impromptu inspirational leader, the resulting battles make him question the motives of everyone around him. Swamp’s rollicking and witty prose makes the stomach-turning events somewhat easier to swallow. The narrative is solid, if wordy and long, casting Floyd as a deadpan antihero. Zany though informed, disgusting but relevant, the story offers insight into American class divisions and the general public’s feeling of powerlessness toward the government machine. Think American Psycho if it were written by Carl Hiaasen, plus characters from The Handmaid’s Tale on a lot of hard drugs. If Swamp had been more concise, his book could have taken flight a bit more easily.
Overlong but astonishing social commentary.

Pub Date: April 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-31601-6

Page Count: 446

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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