Truth in Advertising

John Kenney, Author
John Kenney. Touchstone, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4516-7554-2
Reviewed on: 10/08/2012
Release date: 01/08/2013
Hardcover - 463 pages - 978-1-61173-680-9
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-1-4516-7555-9
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4516-7556-6
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The debut novel from New Yorker humorist and former advertising copywriter Kenney is a hilarious ad-world satire and a modest family drama. Finbar Dolan has a successful career in commercials, managing a diaper account for a big New York agency. Otherwise, Fin’s life is a mess: he broke up with his fiancée a month before their wedding, is infatuated with his office assistant, Phoebe, and is estranged from his entire family. When his workaholic boss drags him into the office over Christmas to craft a Super Bowl commercial for biodegradable diapers (one of the concepts involves attaching Al Gore’s head to a global parade of Earth-friendly babies) and his abusive, long-lost father turns up in the hospital, Fin’s universe is tipped on its ear. The advertising insider lore and commercial shoot set pieces are golden; the family drama is less successful. Although set up to seem high stakes, events outside Fin’s control guide his family crisis away from father-son conflict and toward less compelling internal struggles. As a satire, the novel is willing to bite off an ambitious chunk of popular culture, but as a human drama, it chooses to make safe choices. Even so, much is a comic tour de force; fans of Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper will have a new author to watch for. Agent: David Kuhn. (Jan.)
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