A New York Times Notable Book for 2001
Synopses & Reviews
What is the next trend -- the next "killer app"? This question is very much on the mind of Ursula Van Urden, a burned-out art student who, after her supermodel sister Ivy's widely publicized suicide attempt, has found work as a trendspotter for Tomorrow, Ltd., in the volcano-shadowed metropolis of Middle City. Armed with only a sketch pad and a mandate to "find the future," Ursula discovers a homeless girl who hunts her own food and lives on the street. This "savage girl" becomes Ursula's first trend and the basis for an advertising scheme that goes madly, disastrously awry.
An exceptionally written novel that puts an obsession with pop culture under the microscope, The Savage Girl is a book that cannot be ignored, and Alex Shakar is a writer brimming with talent.
"[C]lever and provocative....What's best about this entertaining novel is the feast of ideas. Has too much irony been emitted into the earth's atmosphere? Is glamour a zero-sum game? Is there a paradoxical essence at the heart of every product? Who knows? But Shakar makes it fun to contemplate." Publishers Weekly
"[A] kinetic debut novel that cannily assesses the shadow side of consumer culture....Shakar's satiric extrapolation of the cannibalistic aspect of our frenzied pursuit of what's hot is searing and brilliant." Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)
"[D]eft, funny....[Shakar] populates his book with an inspired cast of grotesques, the most likable of whom were normal people before they sold themselves to the industry." Kevin Greenberg, Book Magazine
"A dark novel of ideas that might be called 'wickedly funny' if it didn't contain quite so much truth....One emerges from the novel feeling dragged through the murkiest depths of what it means to be human. The author's scalding observations will ring true with teens hip to the often-outrageous ways in which advertising molds us and will provide the rudest, smartest awakening for those who are not." School Library Journal
"A crystalline satire of a preening media elite too exhausted with pillaging the minds of consumers to notice the collapsing world around them." Kirkus Review
"An exceptionally smart and likable first novel that tries valiantly to ransom Beauty from its commercial captors." Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections
"The Savage Girl is breathtakingly smart tragicomedy, equal parts Dawn Powell, Don DeLillo, and Douglas Coupland. A laser-sharp analysis (and embodiment) of post-ironic yearning? Yeah, sure, but it's a pleasure to read, too." Kurt Andersen, author of Turn of the Century
"The Savage Girl is a mindbomb." Kate Lasn, author of Culture Jam
In the wake of her sister Ivy's widely publicized suicide attempt, Ursula Van Urden arrives in the metropolis of Middle City with hopes of starting her own life anew. In an attempt to understand the events leading up to her sister's breakdown, Ursula meets Ivy's mysterious boyfriend, Chas Lacouture, and joins his trendspotting firm, Tomorrow, Ltd. Armed with only a sketch pad and the mandate to "find the future," she begins an odyssey into the strangely intoxicating world of trendspotting where one lesson prevails: At the heart of every product lies a paradox, and when cultivated successfully, it yields untold riches. As Ivy's delusions grow stronger and more apocalyptic, Ursula's observations of a filthy, rodent-eating homeless girl an urban savage lead to an elaborate advertising scheme gone awry that has unexpected consequences.
About the Author
Alex Shakar is the author of the story collection City in Love
, which won the 1996 National Fiction Competition and was published by The Fiction Collective. It was an Independent Presses Editors' "Pick of the Year." Shakar graduated from Yale University in 1990, was a Michener Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.