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The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim (Vintage Contemporaries)by Jonathan Coe
Synopses & Reviews
Maxwell Sim can't seem to make a single meaningful connection. His absent father was always more interested in poetry; he maintains an e-mail correspondence with his estranged wife, though under a false identity; his incomprehensible teenage daughter prefers her BlackBerry to his conversation; and his best friend since childhood is refusing to return his calls. He has seventy-four friends on Facebook, but nobody to talk to.
In an attempt to stir himself out of this horrible rut, Max quits his job as a customer liaison at the local department store and accepts a strange business proposition that falls in his lap by chance: hes hired to drive a Prius full of toothbrushes to the remote Shetland Islands, part of a misguided promotional campaign for a dental-hygiene company intent on illustrating the slogan “We Reach Furthest.”
But Max's trip doesn't go as planned, as he's unable to resist making a series of impromptu visits to important figures from his past who live en route. After a string of cruelly enlightening and intensely awkward misadventures, he finds himself falling in love with the soothing voice of his GPS system (“Emma”) and obsessively identifying with a sailor who perpetrated a notorious hoax and subsequently lost his mind. Eventually Max begins to wonder if perhaps its a severe lack of self-knowledge that's hampering his ability to form actual relationships.
A humane satire and modern-day picaresque, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim is a gently comic and rollickingly entertaining novel about the paradoxical difficulties of making genuine attachments in a world of advanced communications technology and rampant social networking.
"Delightful....[Sim is] a fumbling contemporary Quixote." San Francisco Chronicle
"Very, very funny. There are many contemporary writers who can make you laugh, but Coe is one of the few whose comic set pieces do that and feel like miniature works of art." Bookforum
"A compelling, poignant read....Coe cleverly plays with the reclusive-in-plain-sight notion and pokes gentle fun at our society's love affair with modern gadgetry." Entertainment Weekly
"Funny, acerbic and, most of all, a novel that could not have been born at any other time than the present." NPR
"An amiably lunatic journey into the unknown....Coe's satirical eye is as dependable as ever." Financial Times
"A smart satire of materialism and modern life....Coe is a funny writer, and it's a testament to his skill with character that for all of his hero’s maddening faults and failures, Sim never wears out his welcome....Much like its targets, the book stubbornly delivers moments of humor and humanity." Los Angeles Times
"Most entertaining....A parable about the feeling many now have of not being in control of their own story." The Independent(London)
"Cunningly plotted, extremely well-written and very, very funny." The Telegraph (London)
"Classic Coe." Vogue
"Exceptionally moving....[It tells] us something about loneliness, failure and the inability to cope that we haven’t quite read before." The Guardian (London)
"Clever, engaging, and spring-loaded with mysteries and surprises." Time Out London
"Coe's voice, spoken through Max's perspective, effuses the novel with an easy, understated and satirical sense of humor that is a joy to read....An excellent and entertaining take on how our countless methods of modern communication are making it harder to truly connect." The Daily Texan
"[Coe] gives us witty and tender humanity, and reminds us that while the winners write the history, it is life's losers who have the best stories." The Spectator
"Masterly....[Coe's] eye for the details of contemporary life remains as sharp as ever." Daily Mail (London)
"[A] beguiling combination of picaresque comic adventure, meditation on the idea of meta-narrative, and thought-provoking reflection on the place of social media in our lives." Booklist
Maxwell Sim can’t seem to make a single meaningful connection. He maintains an e-mail correspondence with his estranged wife, though under a false identity; his incomprehensible teenage daughter prefers her BlackBerry to his conversation; and his childhood best friend refuses to return his calls. In an attempt to get out of this horrible rut, Max quits his job at the local department store and accepts a strange business proposition that has him driving a Prius full of toothbrushes from London to the remote Shetland Islands. But Max’s trip doesn’t go as planned, as he’s unable to resist making a series of impromptu visits to important figures from his past.
A modern-day picaresque from Jonathan Coe — acclaimed author of The Rotters’ Club — The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim explores the difficulties of making genuine connections in a world of advanced communications technology and rampant social networking.
About the Author
Jonathan Coe’s awards include the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, the Prix Médicis Étranger, and, for The Rotters’ Club, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. He lives in London with his wife and their two daughters.
Visit the author’s website: www.jonathancoewriter.com.
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