Author: Adam Wilson
336 pages, published by Harper Perennial
Buy The Book: Amazon
Flatscreen tells the story of Eli Schwartz as he endures the loss of his home, the indifference of his parents, the success of his older brother, and the cruel and frequent dismissal of the opposite sex. He is a loser par excellence—pasty, soft, and high—who struggles to become a new person in a world where nothing is new.
Into this scene of apathy rolls Seymour J. Kahn. Former star of the small screen and current paraplegic sex addict, Kahn has purchased Eli’s old family home. The two begin a dangerous friendship, one that distracts from their circumstances but speeds their descent into utter debasement and, inevitably, YouTube stardom.
By story’s end, through unlikely acts of courage and kindness, roles will be reversed, reputations resurrected, and charges (hopefully) dropped. Adam Wilson writes mischief that moves the heart, and Flatscreen marks the wondrous debut of a truth-telling comic voice. (Summary provided by Harper Perennial.)
I want to hug Eli Schwartz, the main character of Flatscreen by Adam Wilson. We all know someone like Eli. The kind of person that never moved out of his or her parent’s basement or learned to drive. The kind of person that seems socially inept yet content in his or her situation. When Eli’s mom sells his childhood home to Kahn, a paraplegic, ex film star and Eli is forced out of the spacious basement and into sharing a condo with his mom, he is faced with the reality of his situation: he has failed to launch.
Adam Wilson’s Eli is a painfully self-aware man still coming to terms with his parent’s divorce years after the breakup. Eli’s relationship with Kahn is central to the storyline of Flatscreen. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Kahn is larger than life. Kahn’s once successful career, loss of his career, and descent into excessive abuse of numerous vices mirrors Eli’s failure to ever attempt any kind of success and his own descent into drug abuse.
Flatscreen takes place in a Northeasteastern, post 9/11 landscape. At times sad and bleak, Eli’s stream of consciousness style ramblings are engaging and ultimately tell a story of potential lost and perspective gained. Numerous film references are included throughout the book as Eli is a wannabe auteur. Filled with explicit sex and drug use, Wilson’s novel explores what happens when a person lets everything go in an attempt to find direction.
As sad as this book is, it has some hilarious parts. Kahn is a comic highlight, and Eli has a YouTube moment that is LOL funny. The setting and POV have a dreamlike feel. Eli and the basement dwellers he hangs out with keep the romantic notion of Coupland’s Generation X alive. Zach Braff or Sofia Coppola really need to make a film version of Flatscreen. This is the kind of novel that could become an awesome movie.
The trailer for Flatscreen stars actor Paul Dano and adult film star Stoya. Adam Wilson even makes a cameo. It is one of the best book trailers I have seen in a while, and I feel like it adequately portrays the tone of the novel.
Readers who fancied the film Garden State, the novels of Chad Kultgen, or movies by Sofia Coppola will enjoy Flatscreen by Adam Wilson. I highly recommend it.
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