Thursday, February 16, 2012

For Review: Flatscreen ~ Adam Wilson

Eli Schwartz is, pretty much, just a loser. He's twenty years old with no ambition; a rich kid who gets stoned all day and watches born. Probably, that's the profile of a lot of men out there. But who am I to criticise? Eli seems happy with his life with all that he thinks that he wants whenever he wants it (apart from actual sex, but that's what happens when you're a loser and girls just think you're 'funny').

Flatscreen begins like so many of these slightly later year coming-of-age stories. And he's a bit of a loser, like a  lot of these guys. But he's part of a super rich upper class American lifestyle and that's always something that is really alien to me. Like Bret Easton Ellis' world, only the main man is far less attractive and charismatic. Eli has his days, and then he has total non-moments. He sees the world through various drugs, which is a story that is beginning to get quite old in contemporary lit. But what saves Eli, and what saves the book, is his murky way of feeling and dealing with his parent's divorce and a brother that is so much better than him. Eli seeks meaningful relationships from his friends, from women, and from a paraplegic ex-star of tv films. Eli's referencing of life through films is one of the most curiously amusing aspects of the book. That's how people engage with the world these days, and it's fun to watch Eli make the (sometimes rather comic) connections.

Eli's way of making sense of the world is interesting, and Adam Wilson tells the story from his flawed, but Hollywood-style optimism. In itself, the writing is clever and engaging, with scenes and monologues that can shock and amuse: it's funny cause it's true. Eli stays stuck with some old ways and he learns and grows with others, though not to an extent that made me wholly satisfied. There was some kind of deeper something that Flatscreen was scratching the surface of but never really got to. Vague, I know, but at the outset of the book I felt I was being promised a reconciliation that never fully came around. Still, despite the almost parallel universe nature of Eli's world, the ugly honesty of his narrative redeems himself, and the whole book with it.

Wilson offers a refreshing read, most especially in terms of voice and narrative. He does his own thing, but it's accessible, and very readable. Flatscreen was good fun, and it comes out in a few days so get on it.