American Spirit by Dan Kennedy

Mike’s review

“in America these days, one’s forties seem to start at twenty-five.” Maybe I’m mistaken, but it seems that the opposite is actually true. I’m 30, never married, don’t own a home, have only recently stumbled into anything even remotely career-like and it’s not super-unusual. Whereas, before, in America, all of that would have been taken care of by the time I was, what, 15?

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Chapter ends then blank page so Chapter 2 will start on the right hand page. Blank page has no page number and I immediately think of how to format this. Formatting sucks.

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50 pages in and I have no real sense of who this guy is. There’s too much hipstery McSweeney’s veneer to be a corporate big wig. The jog loss and fashion model wife and BMW all imply an upper middle to upper class existence that doesn’t match with sneering at yuppies and saying things like, “[the perfect person] is probably not daydreaming of buying guns…” (which could have come from a Regret Instruction Manual.

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Plot Summary: So this guy who works at some sort of media company (? I think, I don’t fully remember) pees all over his office one day for no real good reason. His boss’s dog pees in the office and this is, like, supposed to make a point or something. So he’s fired. And basically decides to Bukowski out his life. I don’t really know why. His wife doesn’t entirely love him or does and he’s dumb. I don’t know. I think this whole thing is meant to set up a satire of American life, but nothing’s ever really satirized all that hard, or at all. The biggest satire is coming up with different words to fit inside the BMW acronym. Something about putting sayings on coffee mugs that he gets rich from. He spends some time in Yellowstone, but nothing really comes of that. Nothing really comes of anything (but it’s not supposed to be that way; if it were, then it would be good satire). Bah.

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The constant fever-dream makes it hard to track what’s actually happened. Not sure when his marriage officially dissolved. Or if it did. Still, even after finishing.

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“This is land that leaves you sitting next to your own ghost at the end of the day.”

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So, this guy dives headfirst into the despair rabbithole (wakes up drinking, starts smoking, does whatever drugs he can find, buys a gun), does absolutely no self-introspection and is rewarded handsomely (hot young girlfriend, tons of money, relieved of physical pain). Yep, American Spirit indeed. This place sucks.

This is why the book isn’t satire. Your character who’s supposed to be a shithead (I think) is rewarded handsomely.

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