New Fiction: The Subprimes – Karl Taro Greenfeld

It’s not often that you see a novel blurbed by both William Gibson and Bill McKibbon. Then add Walter Isaacson and Ben Fountain–and even the most jaded publishing vet has to wonder what’s this book is about.

The Subprimes is a piercing political satire—a dystopic near-future Grapes of Wrath setup where middle class folks who default on their homes lose their credit worthiness, and thus the ability to find work. They travel in caravans looking for cities that might take them in, trying to regain a toe-hold on what’s left of the American Dream.

But Greenfeld cuts with a satiric broad sword in this one and there will be few who don’t recognize the America he’s talking about.

After the first few pages [of the Subprimes] I was hooked. It’s the witty specificity that reels you in. Instead of Armistead Maupin’s Marin County residents with their labeled lifestyle of superior consumption, we have corporate sponsorship and privatization of every aspect of American life (the ‘Subway Fresh Take Paul Revere Middle School’). You imagine a landscape that looks like a cross between strip mines, abandoned subdivisions, and NFL-broadcast-inspired billboards. I will never be able to see a certain televangelist without remembering this description of the fictional Pastor Roger:  ‘looking like a cross between Andrew Jackson and one of the Jonas Brothers.’ There is some part of this satire that will resonate with every reader, from parents whose school children bring home binders of rules and legal releases, frustrated healthcare system users, commuters navigating between EZ Pass tollbooths and potholes, and environmentalists given some small hope by the urban farming movement. You will mark passages to read out loud to family members. It’s that good.”
— Carla Bayha, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

“Greenfeld employs the ethos of the Occupy movement in imagining how the worst tendencies of conservative power and economic greed might wreak havoc on a nation…. Greenfeld has a tendency to lean toward parody in his satiric style, but here he employs enough authenticity to terrify, enough black humor to disarm the story’s inherent pessimism, and a surprising admiration for faith in its myriad forms.”
Kirkus Reviews

Set in a meticulously, terrifyingly imagined all-too-near future, The Subprimes is a potent cocktail of North American myth, equal parts John Steinbeck and Margaret Atwood, with a dash of benzene.”
— William Gibson

“Greenfeld has produced a fascinating novel about life in the age of economic uncertainty. It’s a colorful tale of characters living on the edge combined with sharp social insights.”
— Walter Isaacson

The Subprimes holds up a funhouse-mirror version of ourselves and our era, when wealth and free-market fundamentalism threaten to flatten the great mass of humanity for the benefit of a few. Karl Taro Greenfeld has written a masterful, viciously funny satire of our times, one that we ignore at our peril.”
— Ben Fountain

“A little Occupy, a little Ed Abbey, and a good deal of hope for solidarity in a screwed-up world — The Subprimes is a superhero story for the rest of us.”
— Bill McKibben

The Subprimes (9780062132420) by Karl Taro Greenfeld. $25.99 hardcover. 5/5/15 on sale.

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