cover image Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: 2a Novel

Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: 2a Novel

Donald Antrim. Viking Books, $20 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85139-3

Entropy, violence and weird fetishism confound citizens and local institutions in this breezy, darkly comic lampoon of civic duty and ambition. Things have gone awry in a small, seaside community somewhere in the American subtropics, and schoolteacher Pete Robinson wants to lead his fellow citizens back to sanity. Unfortunately, he may not remember the way. An expert in the history of torture, he supervises the drawing and quartering of the town's mayor by four automobiles. Meanwhile, the local citizenry is busy surrounding their homes with moats filled with broken glass, bamboo spears and water moccasins; the school has been converted into a factory creating talismans from marine animals; and the public library's duplicate books are being used to detonate claymore mines in Turtle Pond Park (``I do enjoy the way The Riverside Shakespeare rides the wind on a long toss,'' says one character, while another notes, ``For hang time, give me The Complete Poems of Robert Frost any day''). Robinson reopens school in his own basement--with the ulterior motive of promoting himself as a mayoral candidate. If all this seems bewildering, first novelist Antrim presents it, ironically, as a sunny slice of life. His crisp, effective prose and Robinson's odd academic notions echo Don DeLillo's White Noise. There is much to chuckle at, and even a bit to ponder in this imaginative debut. First serial to Harper's and the Paris Review. (Sept.)