Sunday, February 10, 2008

Spectacular Happiness

by Peter D. Kramer

“Starting with the fact that it is fiction, Spectacular Happiness defies our expectations of Kramer. It breathes life into a certain kind of radical politics in a way that makes you wish Kramer had tried fiction sooner. None of our more practiced leftish novelists – including Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and E.L. Doctorow – has generated as tantalizing a vision of contemporary radicalism minus dogma. . . . This elegantly crafted novel restores faith in politics.”
-- The American Prospect

"Good fun . . . rewarding surprises . . . like a rich series of therapy sessions, filled with slow shifts in self-awareness . . . For those of us who delight in practicing amateur analysis, Spectacular Happiness provides the rare opportunity to do it with a beguiling subject [Chip Samuels] and an expert guide [Kramer]." -- New York Times Book Review

"You could say that Spectacular Happiness makes for explosive beach reading. It's about an eco-terrorist who blows up shorefront mansions on Cape Cod. The effect is something like reading "Jaws" from the shark's point of view. . . . It's wacky and wicked and brilliant -the sort of novel you want to argue with and about. (Attention, book clubs.) By the end, Kramer has set off explosives throughout the structure of our consumer culture and everything feels dangerously unstable." -- Christian Science Monitor

“A serious novel of ideas . . . the intellectual conflicts lend the book all the tension anybody should need.” -- Newsweek

“Kramer’s chief claim to fame to date is his passionate anti-prozac treatise (Listening to Prozac), but this debut novel . . . should help earn him a serious literary audience as well . . . The depth, quality, and ambition of Kramer’s prose will surprise those expecting a superficial crossover effort.” -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"…a mordantly funny novel bursting with profound observations about faded idealism, parental love, and the evanescent nature of fame . . . achingly beautiful . . . eloquent passages suffused with a parent's boundless devotion and patience. This complex weaving of social satire and family drama is what makes Spectacular Happiness so compelling." -- Time Out New York

"The voice – measured, pensive, soft-spoken, self-deprecating, lightly ironic, quizzically humane – recalls the early Walker Percy." -- Kirkus

"The author of Listening to Prozac (1993) and Should You Leave? (1997) brings his considerable literary skills and insight into human nature to this stunning first novel." -- Booklist

"Spectacular Happiness is an explosion of ideals and a blasting comment on our era of conspicuous consumption." -- Bookpage

“Kramer's new prescription is a blast: Kramer writes a beautiful, brooding tale of failed radical views, alienation, and social responsibility. At the same time, he creates a deft social satire of class, wealth, and celebrity in America. . . . Kramer's media parody is hilarious and withering, a passionate call for radical social change." -- Boston Phoenix

"Despite Kramer's obvious grasp of the absurd and his ability to turn a good joke, Spectacular Happiness is more an examination of what we've become as a society and what we're willing to be. It's an original and accomplished piece of work." -- Cape Cod Voice

"In an era increasingly scarred by terrorism of all kinds, Spectacular Happiness is more than just a witty, compelling work of fiction: It is an important commentary on the twin spectacles of greed and rage that have overtaken our age." -- Gerald Shapiro, Forward

"Intriguing . . . Kramer is once again challenging our beliefs about the fixedness of both moral principles and human personality. . . a stop on the journey of a renaissance intellect" -- Chronicle of Higher Education

“A brilliant and completely original novel that dazzles, shocks, entertains, and ultimately transforms. Kramer’s writing is razor sharp and cuts to expose the soft center of modern society. What makes Spectacular Happiness so memorable is a narrator whose intimate, intelligent, and humane voice lingers with us long after we put the book down.” -- Abraham Verghese, Author of My Own Country

“[An] aching novel of fractured families and class alienation . . . an over-the-top satire . . . Kramer uses the bombing campaign to create a kind of forensic analysis of society and the individual.” -- City Page/Minneapolis-St. Paul

“This rich and wonderful book defies distillation. Somehow Kramer successfully weaves together a poignant family saga with anarchist theory, suspenseful intrigue with social criticism, dark cynicism with hope for humanity . . . the provocative aspects of this book are in some ways prescient and, perhaps, especially relevant to a nation engaged in a war against terrorism . . . Kramer’s indictment of modern society is indeed penetrating, but ultimately he writes of people saving one another. He has written a subversive and triumphant work that asks us to do all we can for one another. The attacks of September 11 may complicate the feelings aroused by this book, but by all means read it and enjoy Peter Kramer’s deeply thoughtful fiction" -- The American Journal of Psychiatry

Spectacular Happiness is also available in a Kindle edition.