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A wickedly funny, honest, and poignant debut novel in the spirit of Then We Came to the End and This Is Where I Leave You about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family. “F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives. I have no idea what that means but I believe that in quoting him I appear far more int A wickedly funny, honest, and poignant debut novel in the spirit of Then We Came to the End and This Is Where I Leave You about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family. “F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives. I have no idea what that means but I believe that in quoting him I appear far more intelligent than I am. I don’t know about second acts, but I do think we get second chances, fifth chances, eighteenth chances. Every day we get a fresh chance to live the way we want.” FINBAR DOLAN is lost and lonely. Except he doesn’t know it. Despite escaping his blue-collar Boston upbringing to carve out a mildly successful career at a Madison Avenue ad agency, he’s a bit of a mess and closing in on forty. He’s recently called off a wedding. Now, a few days before Christmas, he’s forced to cancel a long-postponed vacation in order to write, produce, and edit a Super Bowl commercial for his diaper account in record time. Fortunately, it gets worse. Fin learns that his long-estranged and once-abusive father has fallen ill. And that neither of his brothers or his sister intend to visit. It’s a wake-up call for Fin to reevaluate the choices he’s made, admit that he’s falling for his coworker Phoebe, question the importance of diapers in his life, and finally tell the truth about his past. Truth in Advertising is debut novelist John Kenney’s wickedly funny, honest, at times sardonic, and ultimately moving story about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family.


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A wickedly funny, honest, and poignant debut novel in the spirit of Then We Came to the End and This Is Where I Leave You about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family. “F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives. I have no idea what that means but I believe that in quoting him I appear far more int A wickedly funny, honest, and poignant debut novel in the spirit of Then We Came to the End and This Is Where I Leave You about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family. “F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives. I have no idea what that means but I believe that in quoting him I appear far more intelligent than I am. I don’t know about second acts, but I do think we get second chances, fifth chances, eighteenth chances. Every day we get a fresh chance to live the way we want.” FINBAR DOLAN is lost and lonely. Except he doesn’t know it. Despite escaping his blue-collar Boston upbringing to carve out a mildly successful career at a Madison Avenue ad agency, he’s a bit of a mess and closing in on forty. He’s recently called off a wedding. Now, a few days before Christmas, he’s forced to cancel a long-postponed vacation in order to write, produce, and edit a Super Bowl commercial for his diaper account in record time. Fortunately, it gets worse. Fin learns that his long-estranged and once-abusive father has fallen ill. And that neither of his brothers or his sister intend to visit. It’s a wake-up call for Fin to reevaluate the choices he’s made, admit that he’s falling for his coworker Phoebe, question the importance of diapers in his life, and finally tell the truth about his past. Truth in Advertising is debut novelist John Kenney’s wickedly funny, honest, at times sardonic, and ultimately moving story about the absurdity of corporate life, the complications of love, and the meaning of family.

30 review for Truth in Advertising

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hilary

    I’m sure that someone cleverer than me has already coined a term for a beach read released in the winter months, and whatever that term is (ski read? Cardigan read? A scarfer? Chalet lit?), it’s applicable to John Kenney’s debut novel. The novel’s protagonist, Finbar (“Fin”) Dolan, is a fairly stock character from books by Jonathan Tropper and Nick Hornby: an immature slacker dude pushing 40 who’s single, bored by his job at a middling New York advertising agency, and with glaring commitment and I’m sure that someone cleverer than me has already coined a term for a beach read released in the winter months, and whatever that term is (ski read? Cardigan read? A scarfer? Chalet lit?), it’s applicable to John Kenney’s debut novel. The novel’s protagonist, Finbar (“Fin”) Dolan, is a fairly stock character from books by Jonathan Tropper and Nick Hornby: an immature slacker dude pushing 40 who’s single, bored by his job at a middling New York advertising agency, and with glaring commitment and unresolved family issues. Fin’s just canceled his wedding at a late, only-semi-refundable date (he’s still got two Anywhere in the World plane tickets due to expire soon from his honeymoon burning a hole in his pocket), and as a copywriter working on ads for a company that makes diapers, he’s perhaps not as fulfilled as any sentient human being would like to be. (He does find himself in a position to make lots of poop and diaper jokes, though, which is always nice.) Since Fin isn’t the sort of character who will ever make a decision unless external forces demand it, he also has to face the impending death of his father, who he hasn’t spoken to in over 20 years. He’ll also have to sort out his romantic life, which is pretty dry except for an apparent interest in a decade-younger co-worker who he calls almost every day but has seemingly never thought about in that way. Fortunately, to alleviate that not-really-there tension, he’ll be able to crack wise with his co-workers, who are fairly indistinguishable, or perhaps I should say “Findistinguishable,” because they’re essentially just slightly different versions of Fin. The characters and the basic plot aren’t particularly compelling, new, or fully formed, and this novel lacks the pacing, resonance, and dramatic build of, say, one of Hornby’s books. And for the first two thirds of the novel, Kenney's sense of humor and comically caffeinated descriptions of the advertising world and his particular slice of New York City distract you from the fact that everything else about this novel is pretty horrible, really. But as the novel limps toward its stupid conclusion, the complete lack of emotion, dramatic tension, and sub-Lifetime movie sentiments absolutely poison the well. The more I think about this novel, the more I really disliked it - the last 50 pages really made me angry. When a novel's forced, cliche-ridden ending ties up loose ends (that aren't even really loose in the first place) in an obvious, ham-handed manner that makes you yearn for the subtlety of an episode of Perfect Strangers, it's not a good book. This is one such not-good book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Roche

    **I procured an Advance Reader's Edition for review from my local indie bookstore and have no other interests in this author or title.** Some of us prefer to spend our free time wallowing in a great book. Others enjoy watching television or movies that make us laugh. It is clear that author John Kenney has spent a great deal of time doing both because his debut novel, "Truth In Advertising," is a fun and compelling blend of literary fiction and pop culture. This is the story of advertising writer **I procured an Advance Reader's Edition for review from my local indie bookstore and have no other interests in this author or title.** Some of us prefer to spend our free time wallowing in a great book. Others enjoy watching television or movies that make us laugh. It is clear that author John Kenney has spent a great deal of time doing both because his debut novel, "Truth In Advertising," is a fun and compelling blend of literary fiction and pop culture. This is the story of advertising writer Finbar Dolan, whose capacity for fantasy is topped only by his wry observations of reality. By his position and appearance, Fin seems to be a true success story, having worked his way up from a poor, virtually orphaned childhood to a respectable career in advertising. He is tall, attractive, gainfully employed and living in New York City. He rubs elbows with Hollywood "talent" and gets to see the fruits of his labors on television. But, Fin can't seem to get a handle on true career satisfaction or personal happiness. He clues us into this in the most delightful way -- through Seinfeld-caliber observational humor that is laugh-out-loud funny at times. However, just when the reader begins to think that Fin, himself, might be as shallow as a Seinfeld character, John Kenney plunges Fin into a family drama that forces Fin to abandon his escapist imaginings and protective wit and confront his painful past. (Tissue alert!) Will it lead to the promise of a more fulfilling future for Fin? You'll just have to read it to find out. I found this book to be very entertaining and surprisingly deep. It passes the Lisa Roche Cliff Test: would I give a damn if the most pertinent characters drove off a cliff? My answer is a resounding, "Yes!" In fact, this book did for me what every good novel should: it left me wondering what the characters would be up to if the story went on.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melki

    I read somewhere that on average each of us is exposed to something like five thousand advertising messages a day. If you sleep for eight hours that's something like 312 messages - commercials, print ads, Web banners, T-shirt logos, coffee-cup sleeves, sneaker swooshes - an hour. That's a little scary, huh? Fin Dolan once had dreams. "I wanted to write. I wanted to write poetry. To touch people's hearts and open their minds. I wanted to live by the sea, England perhaps, teach at an old college, wea I read somewhere that on average each of us is exposed to something like five thousand advertising messages a day. If you sleep for eight hours that's something like 312 messages - commercials, print ads, Web banners, T-shirt logos, coffee-cup sleeves, sneaker swooshes - an hour. That's a little scary, huh? Fin Dolan once had dreams. "I wanted to write. I wanted to write poetry. To touch people's hearts and open their minds. I wanted to live by the sea, England perhaps, teach at an old college, wear heavy sweaters, and have sex with my full-breasted female students." Instead, he's writing an advertising campaign for diapers. He can't even fulfill his less inspiring dreams of writing copy for more interesting products. I make the commercials wherein you turn the sound down or run to the toilet. Here's a glimpse a Fin's life as he rehashes a failed romance and deals with the details of his estranged father's death, all while trying to produce a pricey Super Bowl spot in record time. The product this time? DIAPERS, of course - biodegradable, flushable diapers! Should they go with a parody of Apple's famous 1984 ad, or try something new, an ad featuring babies sporting Al Gore's head? (Shudder...) I expected to love this book, and I honestly didn't. The behind-the-scenes look at the advertising industry was great, and could have only come from someone who's done time in the business. The love story/family crisis thing, however, has been done before and done better by plenty of others. The uncomfortable mix of humor and pathos made for a somewhat unpleasant read. I would normally read a novel of this length in three days. This one took me nine to finish. Now, if you'll excuse me, I just saw an ad for a book I HAVE to check out...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    I was given an advance copy by the publisher. The thing with jobs is, they all pretty much suck. Working in construction, working in a cubicle, working in the White House, they all pretty much suck to some degree. Even fulfilling jobs, like being a doctor or a teacher, kind of suck. Even sexy jobs, like advertising copywriter, or shipping mogul, kind of suck. The paperwork, the long hours, the low pay; every job has something that makes it kind of suck, even if it might seem otherwise to an obse I was given an advance copy by the publisher. The thing with jobs is, they all pretty much suck. Working in construction, working in a cubicle, working in the White House, they all pretty much suck to some degree. Even fulfilling jobs, like being a doctor or a teacher, kind of suck. Even sexy jobs, like advertising copywriter, or shipping mogul, kind of suck. The paperwork, the long hours, the low pay; every job has something that makes it kind of suck, even if it might seem otherwise to an observer. If all jobs didn't suck, they wouldn't have to pay you to show up every day. John Kenney had one of the cool sucky jobs. Working as an advertising copywriter for seventeen years, Kenney lived the life that five seasons of 'Mad Men' would lead you to believe is all insightful ideas, beautiful women in beehive hairdos, and scotch on the rocks at 11am. If his debut novel, 'Truth in Advertising' is to be believed, Kenney found it lacking. His horrifically named Finbar Dolan (by far the novel's biggest flaw is that name--positively Harbach-esque, and I mean that in the worst possible way) is sleepwalking his way through a once-exciting career in a big NYC advertising firm, single, alone, and going nowhere all while pushing forty, when his estranged father falls gravely ill. All that sounds kind of terrible, and honestly, if I wasn't given an advance copy by the publisher, I probably woudn't have picked it up. I'm glad I did though, because Kenney elevates what could have been a hackneyed premise with well-observed ruminations on work and family, never taking the easy way out with his characters and injecting the story with real pathos and well-earned sentiment. There are a lot of really obvious and melodramatic places Kenney could have taken the story of a man dealing with a mid-life crisis at work and his estranged family, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he zigs when we expect the plot to zag, he does paint a more realistic picture of the given situations, packing them all with mild surprises that leave you feeling good about the plot and character development. By revealing the world that surrounds Finbar in a giant chunks, but slowly peeling away the layers of the character himself, Kenney immerses you in the otherwise exciting world of advertising, and then slowly shows you exactly why it’s not so exciting to Finbar these days. He expertly does this while also carefully expanding upon Finbar’s unique family situation, a group of successful misfit children torn apart by their father’s alcoholism and their mother’s traumatic death. It all could have easily been maudlin or trite, but Kenney injects the story with an immediacy and deftness that makes it feel true. The best parts of the book are the work scenes, which benefit greatly from Kenney’s years of experience in the advertising world. They feel like a peek behind the curtain, and also offer an explanation of why it’s not as sexy or glamorous as it appears from the outside. Finbar spends a good deal of the book wrestling with why he’s not more fulfilled by his work, recognizing that it’s a good job, and one he should feel more blessed to have. It’s a sentiment most people probably have about their jobs in this era of high unemployment, and it’s well-reflected by Kenney. ‘Truth In Advertising’ is probably not going to change your life, but it’s an extremely well-observed rumination on work and family that is surprisingly affecting.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bebe (Sarah) Brechner

    Less than 100 pages in, and I've laughed out loud many times - brilliantly written! Here's a sample, where he describes types of advertising people, starting with the true geniuses, the solidly talented and ..."Then there's the rest of us. Me and my coworkers. We do diapers. We do little chocolate candies. We do detergent and dishwashing liquid and air fresheners and toilet paper and paper towels and prescription drugs. Our commercials have cartoon animals or talking germs. It's the stuff you se Less than 100 pages in, and I've laughed out loud many times - brilliantly written! Here's a sample, where he describes types of advertising people, starting with the true geniuses, the solidly talented and ..."Then there's the rest of us. Me and my coworkers. We do diapers. We do little chocolate candies. We do detergent and dishwashing liquid and air fresheners and toilet paper and paper towels and prescription drugs. Our commercials have cartoon animals or talking germs. It's the stuff you see and think, Blessed Mother of God, what idiot did that? That idiot would be me. I make the commercials wherein you turn the sound down or run to the toilet." Finished this and found it to be sensitive and very poignant. Truly, an excellent book! It starts out witty and funny, but gradually reveals the inner life of a man who can't commit or get close to others - and why. An astonishingly adept work! Hits on all levels - highly recommended. You won't forget this one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I read a sample of this in the 2012 BEA sampler, and then requested it via NetGalley. It isn't set to come out until 2013, but I think this is one first novel worth a read. Fin works as a copy writer for an advertising agency in NYC. During the time of the story, his biggest project is diapers, and he has to find ways to be creative while life is in a bit of turmoil - he has called off his wedding and his father is dying. I feel like a lot of authors write about unhappy people, but this isn't as o I read a sample of this in the 2012 BEA sampler, and then requested it via NetGalley. It isn't set to come out until 2013, but I think this is one first novel worth a read. Fin works as a copy writer for an advertising agency in NYC. During the time of the story, his biggest project is diapers, and he has to find ways to be creative while life is in a bit of turmoil - he has called off his wedding and his father is dying. I feel like a lot of authors write about unhappy people, but this isn't as one-note as some of the more well known authors who are acclaimed for this feat (*cough* McEwan *cough* Franzen). I appreciated the constant internal dialogue between him and his imagination, whether that was fake interviews with talk show hosts or his internal voice which insists on calling him Gary. Ultimately I don't think he's determined to be unhappy, which helps. He is sympathetic while still being funny. "The lucky ones have a passion. The other 98 percent of us end up doing something we kind-of, sort-of like-ish. The place where you show up for work every day for five, ten, twenty years is who you are. Isn't it? And yet from time to time, there is that small voice that screams, 'Leave. Go. This isn't what you want.' Except that other voice, the one that calls you Gary, whispers, 'But where would you go? And what would you do?'" "There are people who believe that life can be lived rationally, that we are in control of our deepest, most powerful emotions, that we can perhaps even escape the deep markers from the early days, the crucial days, where we learn it all. Those people are called crazy."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    I love John Kenney's humor pieces in New Yorker and elsewhere, so was eager to read his take on the Ad World. The book did not disappoint. The workplace scenes are hilariously on target. (I'm a veteran of the same business, so trust me, it's truth.) But there's more to this book than laugh-out-loud scenes like Gwyneth Paltrow doing a diapers commercial which has to stop filming because the baby they cast to be hers turns out to be black. The book is funny, yes, but also true and touching in ways I love John Kenney's humor pieces in New Yorker and elsewhere, so was eager to read his take on the Ad World. The book did not disappoint. The workplace scenes are hilariously on target. (I'm a veteran of the same business, so trust me, it's truth.) But there's more to this book than laugh-out-loud scenes like Gwyneth Paltrow doing a diapers commercial which has to stop filming because the baby they cast to be hers turns out to be black. The book is funny, yes, but also true and touching in ways that I didn't expect. I admired how Kenney handles inner voices--even giving them names, so that they acquire the force of characters. I like that the novel is reflective of life: things you wish were different, you can't always change. It's not like there's a product you can buy to fix up your life--even though Fin's job is to try to persuade otherwise.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jacki Leach

    Hilarious and, at times, heartbreaking, 'Truth in Advertising' follows the life story of Fin Dolan, a mildly successful creative writer at an ad agency. He and his siblings grew up with an abusive father, and now that the man is at death's door, Fin is the only one who makes the journey to sit at his father's bedside. Struggling with guilt from calling off his wedding, he's forced to cancel his Christmas vacation in order to produce a commercial for a diaper account. Kenney's experience in the a Hilarious and, at times, heartbreaking, 'Truth in Advertising' follows the life story of Fin Dolan, a mildly successful creative writer at an ad agency. He and his siblings grew up with an abusive father, and now that the man is at death's door, Fin is the only one who makes the journey to sit at his father's bedside. Struggling with guilt from calling off his wedding, he's forced to cancel his Christmas vacation in order to produce a commercial for a diaper account. Kenney's experience in the ad business adds a great deal of depth to this story. Kenney's writing is sharp, witty, and very sardonic. I'm really looking forward to this writer's next novel.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    *I was sent an advance reader copy from the publisher* What attracted me to this debut novel is the suggested similarity to Jonathan Tropper's novels. Having finished this book, I can honestly say that fans of Tropper will love this new volume from John Kenney. Much like Tropper, Kenney has a way of dissecting his characters and letting the reader enter their minds and really gain an understanding of them. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew Fin Dolan inside and out. There is a little bit *I was sent an advance reader copy from the publisher* What attracted me to this debut novel is the suggested similarity to Jonathan Tropper's novels. Having finished this book, I can honestly say that fans of Tropper will love this new volume from John Kenney. Much like Tropper, Kenney has a way of dissecting his characters and letting the reader enter their minds and really gain an understanding of them. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew Fin Dolan inside and out. There is a little bit of Fin Dolan in all of us. Do we truly know what makes us happy? Can we achieve happiness? Fin is dealing with a lot of issues, but who isn't? Fin's father was abusive and indirectly/directly (depending on where you side) responsible for Fin's mother's death. That has scarred the four Dolan children for life, making it unlikely they will ever be the type of family to stay in touch or show emotion to anyone. Thus, Fin has difficulty showing his emotions to the woman he loves. I found Fin to be especially likeable because of how easy it is to relate to him. His coworkers Pam and Ian are funny and refreshingly sarcastic which helps Fin keep his sanity while he tries to come up with the perfect diapers commercial on a tight budget. When Fin learns that his father has fallen ill, he must decide if he will take the time to go visit him, knowing his siblings won't. His mental journey while he deals with his father's illness answers many questions for readers, like why he is so scarred and why his emotions are kept under lock and key for the most part. The present is interspersed with momentary flashbacks so that readers slowly get a complete picture of Fin. There are a few surprises throughout this book that keep the reader interested. While Kenney deals with some poignant issues, his use of humor keeps this from being depressing. There is quite a bit of background information on advertising and creating a commercial which only adds to the story. The introspective parts of this book aren't cliche either which is also surprising. I definitely recommend this for anyone who is a fan of Jonathan Tropper or anyone interested in a look at the intricacies of family life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

    My favorite kind of novel: smart/funny, with a large not-quite-perfect Irish family set not too deeply in the background. Two quick excerpts, from John Kenney's hardworking ad team and main characters: Ian says, "It's really like he has no idea what he's doing, like he's in film school." Pam says, "He's one of the hottest commercial directors in the world." Ian says, "He keeps using the word 'profanity'. Only he's using it wrong." I say, "I noticed that. He thinks it means 'spacious'. Ian says, "I h My favorite kind of novel: smart/funny, with a large not-quite-perfect Irish family set not too deeply in the background. Two quick excerpts, from John Kenney's hardworking ad team and main characters: Ian says, "It's really like he has no idea what he's doing, like he's in film school." Pam says, "He's one of the hottest commercial directors in the world." Ian says, "He keeps using the word 'profanity'. Only he's using it wrong." I say, "I noticed that. He thinks it means 'spacious'. Ian says, "I heard him say to the set designer he wants the baby's room to be more profanity." Pam said, "He makes $30,000 a day." *** "If you are one of the lucky ones who knows what they want to do for a living -- who've always known and who love it, God bless you. If you are a doctor, a priest , a boat builder, a teacher, a firefighter - a person with a calling - consider yourself fortunate. and if you are like me, someone who simply found themselves doing a job they never imagined doing, I'm not sure what to say. Except this."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jose

    I don't know how to properly write a review, but I do know that this book is one worth reading. I get to read a fair number of advanced reader copies, and this is one of the best I've read in years. Not "chick lit," no zombies or vampires, no spies or detectives; just a good old-fashioned novel that is both very funny and (for lack of a better word) meaningful. I highly recommend it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    I was given an advance copy of this novel by the publisher. My father died in August of 2012. He was two days shy of his 64th birthday. Profoundly diabetic, he had a long history of heart trouble, medication manipulation, and noncompliance in regards to his health. He was also known to lie about his condition, sometimes making it seem worse than it was and often not admitting that it was bad as it had been. Needless to say, when he actually died, it came as a bit of a shock. None of us had any id I was given an advance copy of this novel by the publisher. My father died in August of 2012. He was two days shy of his 64th birthday. Profoundly diabetic, he had a long history of heart trouble, medication manipulation, and noncompliance in regards to his health. He was also known to lie about his condition, sometimes making it seem worse than it was and often not admitting that it was bad as it had been. Needless to say, when he actually died, it came as a bit of a shock. None of us had any idea he was sick as he was and might not have believed him had he said something. I have a tumultuous history with my father. He abandoned my siblings and I when we were young and spent most of our early years spiraling further and further into drug addiction and alcoholism, two things which only served to exacerbate the deterioration of his already dwindling health. And the lies. The backlog of lies, deceptions, and untrustworthy actions. There was a good five or six years of my life that we never spoke to one another. Not even once. Within the last several years—probably since 2007 or so—my father turned it around. He still had a myriad of health concerns. He was still an idiot when it came to following his doctor’s orders. We still had to take his reporting on his condition with a grain of salt. But he did become more pro-oactive in the relationships with his children. He became more a part of our lives. He began to find some solace in the religion that he had been brought up in. Essentially, we became friends even if we could not be effective father and son. Like me, he loved baseball. This was our common ground and it was often the excuse we needed to speak on the phone more frequently. When he died, I was not sure how to feel. He had never really been my father by its strictest definition. However, as I’ve gotten older and begun to look more like him, begun to appreciate him more, matured enough to look past the bad and focus on the good, I could not deny the familial bond. I was upset when he died, angry that he had to be taken away from me just when things between us were starting to feel real, railing about the injustices inherent in getting too close to anyone. Why should I have bothered if he was just going to be taken away? My wife—my beautiful, beautiful wife—turned to during one of my self-pitying tirades and said, “At least, when he died, you were no longer mad at him.” I love my wife. Sometimes, she’s very profound. I tell you all of the above because I couldn’t stop thinking about any of the above as I read this novel by John Kenney. Was that a spoiler? Perhaps it was. I really enjoyed this novel. Not because of its brilliance. Or its originality. Or its creativity. But because it perfectly captured what I felt at a time when I really needed someone to understand what I was feeling and why I might have been feeling it. The novel itself is nothing ground-breaking, but it is quite enjoyable. Kenney has a background in advertising and television-writing and the novel reads like a script for commercials. Whipcrack dialogue, fast-paced scenes, not-quite-developed characters (except for the ridiculously-named lead character, who becomes more and more briliantly-realized as the novel progresses). I was reminded of both Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper, both of whom are defendable mainstream writers to emulate. Both of these writers also have a tendency to have a finished product that reads like a well-done screenplay. I sped through this novel in just over a day. It was the perfect break from the lengthy, 900+ books I have been slogging through of late. And it was an exceptional catharsis as I progress into the holidays.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Fin Dolan works for a successful New York ad agency. His job is a good one, although he's not exactly on their A-team. Fin is part of the creative group handling the lucrative, if not so glamorous, Snugglies Diaper account. Indeed, if you read John Kenney's debut novel, "Truth in Advertising," you will gain amazing insight into the finer points of diapers, and the advertising thereof. Moreover, you'll be entertained at the behind-the-scenes machinations of how ads are produced. People will argue Fin Dolan works for a successful New York ad agency. His job is a good one, although he's not exactly on their A-team. Fin is part of the creative group handling the lucrative, if not so glamorous, Snugglies Diaper account. Indeed, if you read John Kenney's debut novel, "Truth in Advertising," you will gain amazing insight into the finer points of diapers, and the advertising thereof. Moreover, you'll be entertained at the behind-the-scenes machinations of how ads are produced. People will argue for hours over three seconds of a TV ad, and micromanage every word of copy. I spent a number of years producing radio ads--many of them for agencies--and I can attest to the almost surreal, often ridiculous human behavior involved. If "Truth in Advertising" were only about the people and processes behind diaper ads, this would be a good novel. What takes it to the next level is how Kenney deals with other people in Fin's life. He recently broke off his engagement to Amy, citing feet so cold they were frostbitten. Amy...well, she didn't take the sudden breakup very well to say the least. Also, Fin has an almost glacially slow courtship developing with Phoebe, one of his departmental assistants. Toughest of all, Fin has to deal with his estranged family, trying to unite his brothers and sister, as their once-abusive father lay dying in a hospital. Work becomes exciting when Snugglies Diapers announces a revolutionary new product that will knock their diaper competitors on their asses. Snugglies wants to debut their new super-diaper during the Super Bowl, leaving Fin and his crew just weeks to come up with a winning concept, write it, film it, edit it, and put together the final, polished product. The client's last-minute decision certainly doesn't make this easy. The way Kenney interlaces Fin's professional and personal lives truly lends an unexpected heart to "Truth in Advertising." The resolution of Fin's issues with his father--and how his journey to forgiveness ends up helping an unlikely new friend--add an extra layer of poignancy to the story. In many ways, Fin's assignment to the diaper account works as a lovely metaphor. Not to get too scatological, but diapers collect and hold on to unpleasant human byproducts. In their own way, Fin and his three siblings have been doing the same thing for years. They essentially quit communicating once their mother died, and they left home. There was too much grief and recrimination to be healed with a cute card and an annual birthday phone call. By the end of "Truth in Advertising," Fin has reevaluated his priorities, and he has a new outlook on life. It's not that everything changes for him. He just chooses to view his life--and his priorities--in a different way. Why, it's almost like he'd been influenced by a really slick TV ad. John Kenney's debut is smart, funny, and deeply human, and I highly recommend it. (nb: I received an advance review copy from the publisher)

  14. 5 out of 5

    JBP

    Wow I didn't like this book by John Kenney and evidently others do quite a bit..I'm baffled. I enjoy some satire, in fact, I kind of like it, but Truth in Advertising was a huge swing and miss for me. The satire of the advertising world is so utterly forced, heavy-handed and dare I say phony [even though Kenney used to work in this world] that I never believed that these people trading endless barbs and one-liners to one another were anything other than complete fabrications. The key word in tha Wow I didn't like this book by John Kenney and evidently others do quite a bit..I'm baffled. I enjoy some satire, in fact, I kind of like it, but Truth in Advertising was a huge swing and miss for me. The satire of the advertising world is so utterly forced, heavy-handed and dare I say phony [even though Kenney used to work in this world] that I never believed that these people trading endless barbs and one-liners to one another were anything other than complete fabrications. The key word in that sentence is "endless." I was exhausted by the end of the book by the amount of snappy one-liners that EVERY character had to say to each other on EVERY single page. There sure are a lot of witty people in advertising I guess. The book wallows in a hollow, superficial quality that began to grate on my nerves early and never let up. The protagonist, Fin, is truly one of the most irritating people I've spent 300 pages with in a long long time. No amount of snappy dialogue is going to change my mind on that. In fact, the whole book is just irritating to the core. But, it's getting a lot of hype and positive word of mouth. As I said earlier, I'm baffled.

  15. 4 out of 5

    eb

    Painfully, wincingly unfunny. There are pages and pages of dialogue that's meant to be snappy and witty, but that's actually predictable and flat. The failed satire of advertising is bad enough, but halfway in, the novel turns into a maudlin family drama. Avoid!

  16. 4 out of 5

    John Luiz

    I almost gave up on this novel in the early pages because the opening didn’t feel very novelistic. There was a frame of a dramatized scene – the shooting of a TV commercial, but very little was dramatized and the early pages were mostly filled with the 1st person narrator offering cynical, albeit very funny, views of the advertising world in a direct monologue to the reader. Then the narrator presented all the key characters in his world in the form of a bulleted list – must like the opening pag I almost gave up on this novel in the early pages because the opening didn’t feel very novelistic. There was a frame of a dramatized scene – the shooting of a TV commercial, but very little was dramatized and the early pages were mostly filled with the 1st person narrator offering cynical, albeit very funny, views of the advertising world in a direct monologue to the reader. Then the narrator presented all the key characters in his world in the form of a bulleted list – must like the opening pages of a play presented in book, when all the character’s names are listed with brief descriptors of each. The character summaries are witty and observant, but I was still desperately waiting for a dramatized scene. My qualms disappeared, though, after those pages. The novel turns into a great, fully dramatized story about a man unraveling for a bit because his job seems meaningless and his long-estranged father is near death. We are giving a moving, and often tragic, portrait of why his family is so fractured. His father left him and his three siblings when they were still at tender ages, and his mother killed herself shortly after her husband walked out. This may sound grim, but the author provides enough comic relief in the descriptions of his siblings’ awkward interactions to prevent the novel from becoming too maudlin. And with a heavy dose of cleverness and inventiveness, he milks the adverting agency world for every last drop of satire that can be found in it. He fully captures the over-the-top pretentiousness and absurd silliness of spending millions of dollars to pitch products with little real value to the world – like non-toxic disposable diapers that are both toxic and non-disposable. I don’t work for an advertising agency, but I work on the client side and have sat in on the process of shooting commercials in Hollywood and every detail of the process is accurately portrayed. The characters seem spot on – including the tough as nails producer who keeps everything running smoothly and the vain director who had a once glorious career but has now fallen on hard times, while still clinging to all his vanity and pomposity. As is the case with the novels of Jonathan Tropper and Nick Hornby, whom this writer is being compared, our protagonist has a love interest – a kindhearted woman, who may be willing to devote herself to him if he can first accomplish that difficult task of maturing and growing up. Like Tropper and Hornby, Kenney does a very good job of delivering a lot of comic moments while showing the struggles a man must go through to make sense of the challenges and setbacks like has thrown his way. The novel may not reach the lofty heights of what I consider the two greatest ad agency novels – Glenn Savan’s The White Palace and Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End -- but it’s a pretty good novel in its own right. If you like this one, try another recent novel that tells a similar story of a man struggling with a difficult father and troubles in his romantic life – the wonderful Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Harvey

    Fin Dolan, the advertising agency copywriter and narrator of John Kenney’s engaging first novel, is approaching his 40th birthday while still “waiting for my life to begin.” That Kenney, who brings to this story his own experience of 17 years in the advertising business, is able to transform a man who’s basically drifting through life into such an appealing character is a tribute to his skill. Belying its debut status, Truth in Advertising is a mature novel that veers from pathos to humor and ba Fin Dolan, the advertising agency copywriter and narrator of John Kenney’s engaging first novel, is approaching his 40th birthday while still “waiting for my life to begin.” That Kenney, who brings to this story his own experience of 17 years in the advertising business, is able to transform a man who’s basically drifting through life into such an appealing character is a tribute to his skill. Belying its debut status, Truth in Advertising is a mature novel that veers from pathos to humor and back without a misstep. After eight years with a New York agency owned by Japan’s largest shipping company, it’s easy to understand why Fin thinks he’s stuck in neutral. He fights to keep his creative juices flowing while crafting ads for a demanding diaper manufacturer, and he’s only recently ended his engagement for reasons even he doesn’t fully understand, leaving him with two first-class airline tickets but nowhere to go. When he’s recruited to produce a Super Bowl commercial for the world’s first biodegradable diaper—a job that will require him to abandon his plan to flee to Mexico alone for the Christmas holiday—he’s tossed into the middle of a nasty existential crisis. If Kenney had been content to confine his story to Fin’s floundering performance at work and nearly nonexistent love life, this novel would be entertaining enough, if slight. Instead, he layers over the sharply observed, often witty portrait of Fin’s professional and personal troubles an empathetic account of his protagonist’s struggle to come to terms with the legacy of an abusive father. For Kenney, the business of advertising—a business that exists to sell us products we didn’t even know we needed—serves as a proxy for the world of work that, for most of us, consumes the majority of our waking hours. “We settle into a life,” Fin muses. “Maybe we made this life or maybe it simply happened.” And yet, he concludes, “We look for something deeper than merely a paycheck.” There’s a certain nobility in this story of an Everyman whose stumbles and small triumphs illuminate our own lives. Copyright 2013 BookPage

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ware

    Finbar Dolan is Holden Caulfield 2013, except he is pushing middle age and Irish Catholic. Fin works as a copywriter at a large New York advertising agency, where he has managed to survive while creating pedestrian copy for pedestrian products. He is our narrator. Just before Christmas Fin is summoned to the executive suite for what could be his big break, the promotion he has long desired but never worked hard enough to get. What he is given is a task. A client has a revolutionary product which Finbar Dolan is Holden Caulfield 2013, except he is pushing middle age and Irish Catholic. Fin works as a copywriter at a large New York advertising agency, where he has managed to survive while creating pedestrian copy for pedestrian products. He is our narrator. Just before Christmas Fin is summoned to the executive suite for what could be his big break, the promotion he has long desired but never worked hard enough to get. What he is given is a task. A client has a revolutionary product which must be launched during the Superbowl. Fin is to lead the effort, and create an iconic commercial for the product-a biodegradable non-toxic diaper. Fin assembles a team of those whose intrinsic value to the agency is such that each is able to be assigned massive amounts of work over the Christmas holidays. They come up with a number of awful ideas, one involving thousands of babies around the world who are born looking like Al Gore. The worst idea of all, a remake of the iconic 1984 Apple Macintosh introduction, involves hurling a messy diaper at the video screen rather than a hammer. Naturally the client loves that idea best and it gets the green light. As Fin is pushing forward on this campaign, his father, from whom he and his siblings have long been estranged chooses this moment to crawl onto his deathbed. This is a novel whose big themes are about guilt and forgiveness, love and like, fathers and sons, ambition and sloth. It is told by an often clueless narrator who manages to deliver hilarious ad agency humor on nearly every page, i.e. June Cleaver delivering the first dirty joke ever told on television ("Ward, you were kind of hard on the Beaver last night") This first novel works at every level. It may itself become a classic like the 1984 Superbowl diaper commercial aspired to be.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Don't Give Up on This One... Truth in Advertising started out as a mixed up mess of information. I felt confused and tossed about in Finbar Dolan’s narrative of his confused and tossed about life in the advertising world. Of course, characters have to be introduced and woven into the story, but I felt as though these were people I couldn’t relate to or ever get to know. THEN the author, John Kenney, cracks the door a tiny bit on Fin’s real life and I was drawn into it. I began to see how Fin’s des Don't Give Up on This One... Truth in Advertising started out as a mixed up mess of information. I felt confused and tossed about in Finbar Dolan’s narrative of his confused and tossed about life in the advertising world. Of course, characters have to be introduced and woven into the story, but I felt as though these were people I couldn’t relate to or ever get to know. THEN the author, John Kenney, cracks the door a tiny bit on Fin’s real life and I was drawn into it. I began to see how Fin’s description of life in the advertising business is probably right on target. A could-be romance, diapers, and colorful co-workers keep things moving along and I found myself rolling my eyes along with some of these characters. After his cancelled wedding Fin decides to use his honeymoon tickets for an exotic Christmas vacation, but has to cancel when his father becomes seriously ill. Fin had avoided his father, brothers and sister for years, but now he is forced to face that he and his siblings are strangers to each other and the only thing they have in common is the childhood they all want to forget. This is a novel about who you really are and letting go of a past that makes you someone else. Relationships take sacrifice and we may never know what sacrifice someone may have made for us if we avoid letting ourselves see it. This was a free give-away book from www.goodreads.com and after its arrival I jumped right in as first novels can be special reads. Truth in Advertising was a good read, but not one that will stay with me. I would like to have seen more peripheral character development. I will look at advertising differently, though!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    http://charlotteswebofbooks.blogspot.... From the engagement he called off to a wonderful woman, to his using his witty sense of humor as a defense mechanism, Fin is far from over his childhood. He was getting ready to head off on his solo honeymoon over Christmas break when he gets called back to the office to put together an ad for the Super Bowl. He is in the process of making this career making spot (about diapers, no less) when he gets word that his father is dying. The father that he hasn't http://charlotteswebofbooks.blogspot.... From the engagement he called off to a wonderful woman, to his using his witty sense of humor as a defense mechanism, Fin is far from over his childhood. He was getting ready to head off on his solo honeymoon over Christmas break when he gets called back to the office to put together an ad for the Super Bowl. He is in the process of making this career making spot (about diapers, no less) when he gets word that his father is dying. The father that he hasn't seen in nearly twenty years. It doesn't take long for Fin to realize that none of his siblings want anything to do with their dying father or his death, as he sits by his bedside he realizes that he might be more like his father than he realized. Will this lesson be enough for him to admit that there is more to life than just work? Like the beautiful Phoebe who matches him wit for wit? I know I am only five books into the New Year, but I can easily say that Truth in Advertising is the best book that I have read this year. The writing was so witty and so enjoyable, I literally found myself laughing at Fin's one-liners. Especially the banter between Fin and Phoebe. Especially the banter between Fin and Phoebe. Their banter reminded me A LOT of the banter between my husband. I also enjoyed watching Fin grow - he learned a lot about his childhood, his parent's relationship, and mostly about himself as his father lay there dying. It really made me love Fin even more, the way he handled everything that he learned.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I really enjoyed this book--it was sort of a modern-day Mad Men story, with the protagonist, Fin, feeling so empty and disconnected, partly because of his soulless job, but also because of childhood tragedy and fear of getting close to anyone. The only reason i gave it 4 stars rather than 5 is that there were parts of his childhood that just seemed a bit trite to me, and I think he could have been a little bit more creative than an abusive Boston Irish dad ruining Fin and his siblings. Also, the I really enjoyed this book--it was sort of a modern-day Mad Men story, with the protagonist, Fin, feeling so empty and disconnected, partly because of his soulless job, but also because of childhood tragedy and fear of getting close to anyone. The only reason i gave it 4 stars rather than 5 is that there were parts of his childhood that just seemed a bit trite to me, and I think he could have been a little bit more creative than an abusive Boston Irish dad ruining Fin and his siblings. Also, the ad campaigns worked on by the fictional agency were totally taken from ads we see on TV, but that worked for me because he was poking fun at the ads themselves, which made me feel like I was winking and nudging at the water cooler in Fin's office. I think that this book was most meaningful for me when the author talked about how we all want our lives to be meaningful, and Fin arriving at the realization that meaning isn't about fame or money, but about those small, quiet moments we sometimes take for granted. Sounds sappy, I know, but it was quite uplifting!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Obsesses over Books & Cookies

    This book grew on me. I'm glad I read some of the reviews saying that they had to get through the first part before they were drawn in and I agree. The first intro to me was excellent, then we go to the present time being overwhelmed with witty banter and a overview of the advertising shoot and the people Finn, the protag. works with and I'm thinking, whoa, too much and kind of cardboard-y. But then we get a little background on Finn and yes there's a lot of stuff about the advertising company a This book grew on me. I'm glad I read some of the reviews saying that they had to get through the first part before they were drawn in and I agree. The first intro to me was excellent, then we go to the present time being overwhelmed with witty banter and a overview of the advertising shoot and the people Finn, the protag. works with and I'm thinking, whoa, too much and kind of cardboard-y. But then we get a little background on Finn and yes there's a lot of stuff about the advertising company and how it works which is kind of cool since we then learn something but then we find out why Finn's not talking to his siblings and why he hates his father so much and it's still funny in parts and I can't help but think of Jonathan Tropper or a little Richard Russo. I think this was a great debut. I inhaled the the last 3/4 of the book and thought the ending was good.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian English

    Where to start? I really wanted to like this book but ugh ... It was very annoying. Kenney does a great job evoking the ad biz, but outside of that the book is a mess. The main character way to glib and oh-so-clever. Wanted to punch him I'm the throat. What worse is that this is two books: an average tale of advertising mashed together with a tedious "poor me" voyage of love-me-daddy self discovery. Crappy and obvious love story as a bonus. Stock characters - British boss, brassy producer, gay a Where to start? I really wanted to like this book but ugh ... It was very annoying. Kenney does a great job evoking the ad biz, but outside of that the book is a mess. The main character way to glib and oh-so-clever. Wanted to punch him I'm the throat. What worse is that this is two books: an average tale of advertising mashed together with a tedious "poor me" voyage of love-me-daddy self discovery. Crappy and obvious love story as a bonus. Stock characters - British boss, brassy producer, gay art director, Aussie co-worker, drop-dead-gorgeous assistant with a heart of gold ... It was a chore getting through this. As for the humor... Lets just say it felt like the client got ahold of the manuscript and had him take out all the funny jokes and replace them with expected ones. Hate to bash this, but it was just lame.

  24. 4 out of 5

    W. Whalin

    From the opening pages of TRUTH IN ADVERTISING, the reader is plunged into the world of Finbar Dolan who works at a New York advertising agency. The writing is crisp and the storytelling propels the reader into the characters and scenes. John Kenney has crafted an excellent first published novel. Like many people, Fin wonders if there is value in their work in advertising. He asks his boss, Martin, “is it enough? What we do?” “Martin stares for a time. “No. It’s not enough. Relative to a trauma s From the opening pages of TRUTH IN ADVERTISING, the reader is plunged into the world of Finbar Dolan who works at a New York advertising agency. The writing is crisp and the storytelling propels the reader into the characters and scenes. John Kenney has crafted an excellent first published novel. Like many people, Fin wonders if there is value in their work in advertising. He asks his boss, Martin, “is it enough? What we do?” “Martin stares for a time. “No. It’s not enough. Relative to a trauma surgeon or special ed teacher or UN AIDS worker in Uganda, no. It’s not nearly enough. But I’m not any of those things. And I’m okay with that. I like what I do. I think what we do has value. Good companies matter to people. Their products matter to people.” (Page 296) If you are looking for excellent writing, get TRUTH IN ADVERTISING. I recommend it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    This book started off slowly, but soon picked up steam as it introduced me to the rollicking world of New York City advertising, and creative writer, Fin Dolan. Fin is not a happy person: his job, his love life, his relationships -- all are unfulfilling. He's got a lot of anger - about his family and his childhood - and it's eating at him relentlessly. An unexpected phone call brings the news that his father - from whom he is estranged - is dying. Fin tries to ignore this information, but ends u This book started off slowly, but soon picked up steam as it introduced me to the rollicking world of New York City advertising, and creative writer, Fin Dolan. Fin is not a happy person: his job, his love life, his relationships -- all are unfulfilling. He's got a lot of anger - about his family and his childhood - and it's eating at him relentlessly. An unexpected phone call brings the news that his father - from whom he is estranged - is dying. Fin tries to ignore this information, but ends up going to see his father and finding peace. This novel is by turns hilarious and thought-provoking, melancholy and soul-searching. It is a novel about each and every one of us who has ever judged another wrongly, held on to anger, or failed to see the uplifting power of love when it's standing right in front of us.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    What would it be like if some guy crawled into your head and wrote a novel? This guy--Fin--is genuinely funny. On the treadmill, I laughed out loud. (The last time I laughed was 1990.). I continued to tread, smiling. This guy really gets me. And he went on getting all of it--the struggle to find meaning in the everyday, the eviscerating self-talk, the guilted sqandering of our fleeting little lifespans. Fin is flaw-finding everywhere, traumitized by a past zipped up tight but about to bust the b What would it be like if some guy crawled into your head and wrote a novel? This guy--Fin--is genuinely funny. On the treadmill, I laughed out loud. (The last time I laughed was 1990.). I continued to tread, smiling. This guy really gets me. And he went on getting all of it--the struggle to find meaning in the everyday, the eviscerating self-talk, the guilted sqandering of our fleeting little lifespans. Fin is flaw-finding everywhere, traumitized by a past zipped up tight but about to bust the bag. It is a first novel, a good one. If the measure of the book is how long the voice stays with me, it's a five star novel. I hear him everywhere i go.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is a very enjoyable read -- charming, sad, funny. Don Draper by way of the south side of Boston knowingly narrates a mid-life mid-career crisis, a tragic family past and a possible romantic future set very nicely in contemporary advertising in New York and LA.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I love the cover! I can't wait to get this book and to read it!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

    I read this book several years ago. Read it closely, marked it carefully, had every intention of posting a thorough and thoughtful analysis at the time. Life got in the way (and let’s face it, life is still in the way). But I was doing some reorganizing lately, and I saw several tabbed passages in the book, and started re-reading some of the portions I marked. And while I can’t remember the book in its entirety, the tabbed portions alone tell a story that is still close to my heart. Anyone else I read this book several years ago. Read it closely, marked it carefully, had every intention of posting a thorough and thoughtful analysis at the time. Life got in the way (and let’s face it, life is still in the way). But I was doing some reorganizing lately, and I saw several tabbed passages in the book, and started re-reading some of the portions I marked. And while I can’t remember the book in its entirety, the tabbed portions alone tell a story that is still close to my heart. Anyone else grinding it out in corporate America (or corporate anywhere, for that matter, or just grinding it out in life in general) will probably relate to at least some of these. Speaking of people (particularly those working in advertising) finding themselves mid-career: “They possess that hybrid of confusion and sadness at having awoken, well past their prime, married (or just as often divorced), with two children and a mortgage on a house in [fill in the blank with the name of a posh suburb full of McMansions nearest you] and thinking How did this happen? They never really figured out what it was they wanted to do with their lives, and so life took over, marriage came along, children, a home, massive amounts of ‘good’ debt, and, after mediocre sex on Sunday night, they lie awake and think about how much damage it would cause if they left their wife and traveled around the south of France for the summer…[will not go into detail about what all that would entail, but I’m sure you can use your imagination].” Truth in Advertising, John Kenney, at p. 36 (emphasis added). On doing what you love and living what you do: “The lucky ones have passion. The other ninety-eight percent of us end up doing something we kind-of, sort-of like-ish. The place where you show up for work each day for five, ten, twenty years is who you are. Isn’t it? And yet, from time to time, there is that small voice that screams, ‘Leave. Go. This isn’t what you want.’ Except that other voice, the one that calls you Gary, whispers, ‘But where would you go? And what would you do?'” Id. at 81. On human intimacy, not sex, but actual physical closeness and what a rarity it is in contemporary society: “Unless you are married, unless you are in a relationship, unless you are at the dentist, it is very rare to see another person’s face close up. Something happens in that small space. Fewer words, perhaps. A more fully realized understanding of the moment, of time, of vulnerability and fragility. Of breathing. You see them differently. When they do speak it’s in a slightly different voice. Quieter. Intimate.” Id. at 124. This sensation/perspective, which he describes very well, I know it, and love it, and find it central to the essence of what being and living is all about. In some ways I miss it. On aging: “It will change. All of it. Imperceptibly at first. Then irrevocably. Thirty comes. Thirty-five surprises you. The prospect of forty stuns you. Once the money was a wonderful surprise. Now it is not enough. A restlessness creeps in. A wanting of something you cannot quite put your finger on. Stories of other people’s lives fascinate you. The idea of many things–a career change, a sabbatical, graduate school, a tattoo–seems interesting but you never do any of them….Someone changed the clocks, pushed them ahead when you weren’t looking. There is, occasionally (though more and more frequently), a small pit of anxiety in your stomach. You keep waiting for something to happen. And that is your mistake.” Id. at 130. I am in the exact age window this passage describes. It is and is not a fair accounting of my frame of mind and that of many of my contemporaries. There was a fascinating passage, which was too specific to the character in the book to be worth repeating in its entirety, but it addresses the concept of death, particularly of a parent, and some of the places our minds go. We picture them as young children. We picture them at our age. And perhaps most poignantly, we contemplate the meaning of this event in the context of our own mortality. “Where once time seemed to me to move slowly, languidly, now life seems to move much faster, a speed that frightens me at times. One day, someone will stand over me like this and do the same.” Id. at 167 (emphasis added). Time does speed up. It slips away. On the fleeting nature of those rare joyous moments. In the story, the main character is with a woman. At a restaurant. He can smell her perfume, faint at the end of the day. And he says: “I am intensely aware of this moment. Here I am, in New York City, in a restaurant, on a winter’s night, eating this food and drinking this wine, and I am alive for a moment, just a moment, before it flits away, I am happy, feel, in fact, overwhelming joy. And then, just that fast, as I try to hold on to it, to stay in it, the noise of thought pushes it away, like coffee spilled on a table, spreading out, covering everything. What have I been doing, why have I never been to Morocco, why don’t I speak Spanish, why can’t I kickbox, why didn’t I take a night course in philosophy/art history/Euclidean geometry…? I watch my mind come back to the moment, unable to pick up the thread from before.” Id. at 198. Oh, this moment. I have experienced it. Not as often as I would like, but it is precisely this rarity that makes it so special. It’s like waking involuntarily from a dream, the moment you lose it. You can’t get it back. (A funny line too, in this section, saying Olive Garden has a new tagline: “When you’re here, you’ve made a horrible mistake.” Id. Too, too true). On routine and the days blending together: “The days meld together. Moments of lightness , of meetings, walks down a hallway and nods and smiles to coworkers of five years, eight years. Wasn’t I taking this exact shower at this exact time yesterday morning? Or was it a week ago? What day is it? The subway and the coffee cart and the gym, the copier, the men’s room, the cafeteria, the void of time lost. We settle into a life. Maybe we made this life or maybe it simply happened.” Id. at 205. In this same section, and I think very fitting, and familiar, he talks about looking out the window of his office building and seeing two men unloading sacks of flour from a truck. Each bag they set down emits a puff of white. They are in work boots. They are laughing and talking. “The job seems appealing from this distance.” Id. at 206. I have done this. Do this. With UPS men. Landscapers. Grocery store clerks. Why does it look so appealing? Is it just because it’s different? The path not taken? And were we to “throw it all away” and take up one of those jobs, wouldn’t that then become this? The drudgery? The monotony? Is this purely “grass is always greener” thinking, or is there something more to it? So why do we keep doing it, if we’re so miserable? Kenney offers: “Everyone is working. There can be no stopping in the new world. We take pride in our busy-ness, our relentless workiness. You hear it every day. I’m swamped. I’m incredibly busy. I’ve never been busier. Work’s insane. It validates us. Helps us feel important. Helps us feel alive. If we were to stop, stand still, not do anything, we’d burst into flames.” Id. at 259. So how do we break out of this? And do we? Can we? Should we? Is this just the reality of adult life, or is there more? Okay, some of you might be thinking, “Geez, what a miserably depressing outlook. Why would anyone read that book?” But I don’t know. Reading it made me feel…understood? Less alone? There is some comfort in knowing I’m not the only one. It was familiar, but also funny. Because if we don’t laugh, we cry, right? The book was very good, very well-written, very thought-provoking. In a strange way, it made me feel better than reading Chicken Soup for the Corporate Drone’s Soul would have. Speaking of depressing…. Two enthusiastic if relentlessly overworked thumbs up. - See more at: http://dunceacademy.com/3698/truth-in...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Adusumilli

    The writer has some worth. Please let him know I said that. It will make his day.

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