Saturday, January 4, 2014

Review: Truth in Advertising

Truth in AdvertisingTruth in Advertising
by John Kenney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an excellent novel. It starts off seeming like it will be one thing--a smart aleky look at the world of NY advertising--and becomes much more as you get into it. I found the main character, Fin Dolan very appealing (fairly screwed up, but appealing) and the way Kenney unfolds Fin's story is brilliantly done.

Two narrative techniques struck me as really effective. At various points in the novel Fin imagines interviews between himself and various people (Oprah, for example). The interviews are funny to start off with, but they end up revealing a lot of heavy info about how Fin sees himself. This is a great way to give this info to the reader without totally changing Fin's voice (which is not, especially at the beginning of the book, very self-aware). The second technique I loved was the second-person paragraphs that went on in Fin's head to explain what happens in various situations in life. The juxtopostion of mundane and philosophical is wonderful and again Kenney is sneaking in back-story info.  The use of contrasts between the beautiful ideal world (you know, the one in commercials) and the actual world is very well done here.
"She meets me at the entrance to the children's zoo and we feed quarters into a gumball machine that dispenses pellet food for goats. You lay your hand flat, the goats lick the pellet off your hand.
There is also a Purell dispenser." 
This novel has a lot of insightful observations to offer about family, and the impact of trauma on people's lives, but it sneaks them in on the reader, the way a good commercial sneaks it's message in on you. Highly recommended, especially if this paragraph sounds familiar:
"Seat belts ... I mean, we used to crawl around the station wagon like cosmonauts in a weightless environment. Adults would literally blow cigarette smoke in your face for fun. We drank whole milk with five tablespoons of Bosco in it. We ate Chips Ahoy like kids eat vitamins now. And look at us. We're fine. Aren't we fine?" 
That strikes me as summing up what this novel is about: "And look at us. We're fine. Aren't we fine?"

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