Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Looking Forward with The Futurist

I just finished an interesting first novel this morning called The Futurist by James P. Othmer;the story starts in Johannesburg where prominent professional trend spotter Yates is to give a major speech at the Futureworld Conference,sprouting the usual sales pitch to the multiple interest groups there that he could do in his sleep. A few factors fall into place that lead him off his path-a note from his longtime girlfriend,telling him that she's leaving Yates for a history teacher,witnessing a nasty soccer riot and then being asked on the best way to spin it for the press and drinking everything in his hotel suite minibar. On the chance remark of a newbie callgirl,he writes the ultimate career-ending speech and delivers up to an unsuspecting audience who doesn't take it very well.

The results of this include being recruited by a shadow agency to fly around and get man on the street info about why America is such a hated country. Yates figures why not? and says yes but his first stop is to Campbell,his mentor,who is so bored with his success that he prefers to live in Greenland,waiting for glaciers to break up while getting it on with the local mafia hitwoman/artist,Magga. That trip only compounds Yates' own inner turmoil(not to mention his anxiety over Marjorie,the call girl who he asks to join him on his travels) so he heads to Milan,where a terrorist bombing and mysterious e-mails from someone calling themselves "Nostadamus" really jack up Yates' situation to much higher levels of trouble.

There's plenty of verbal zingers and sarcasm on hand but the book is not just an elaborate comedy club riff on the dark side of salesmenship;it's an attempt to examine the type of place the world as we know has become,where telling people what they want to hear can become a growth industry. Some will say" Yeah,I've heard that before-so what?" The answer is "You haven't heard it like this before." Othmer is a executive for the ad agency Young & Rubicam and he brings his work knowledge here to not only make Yates as real as possible but to show the thinking that's required to promote greed to seminary students one day and the next,have someone ghostwrite an Op-Ed piece to the New York Times on the death of literacy for you.

Yates is like a slightly more mature Holden Caulfield-he's not the nicest guy around but he's not as bad as others. The Futurist has a Jerry Maguire Goes To Hell vibe about it,you're watching a man have a crisis of conscience who's not even sure that he has one to being with. There's some food for thought here as well as some entertaining moments and regardless of what your politics are,there's plenty of well aimed satire to hit home wherever you live.

The Futurist will be in bookstores by June and if you want to know more about it,just click the title link above. If this is a sign of things to come,we're all in for some good reads this summmer.

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