Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Amuse-Biatch Recommends: Design Flaws of the Human Condition

Well, possums, if Bravo can engage in a momentum-interrupting orgy of promotion tonight, why shouldn’t we?

And so, we’d like to tell you about Paul Schmidtberger.

Paul is a droll writer friend of long standing, and our friendship has, at various times, involved Jean-Paul Gaultier’s hand, Lenny Kravitz’s favorite falafel, the Père Lachaise cemetery, and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven (though, bien sûr, not all at once).

And now the bitch has gone and gotten a comic novel published. And by Doubleday, no less.

And did we mention that Publisher’s Weekly described the novel as “a promising debut about love, friendship and anger-management” and “an assuredly entertaining romp”? Like we said: Bitch.

Paul, one of the funniest people we know, hails from deepest, darkest New Jersey. Schooley’s Mountain, to be precise. As Paul notes, that’s near Hackettstown, which “is famous because the remains of a wooly mammoth were discovered there,” transported to Harvard, and given the misnomer “Harvard Mastodon.” The mastodon, Paul assures us, was “the last candidate from Hackettstown to get into Harvard.”

Paul himself went to Yale, then did the whole Lost in Translation thing in Japan before Sofia Coppola made winsome, quasi-comedic, Tokyo-based anomie fashionable. Then, of course, he cornered the market in anomie by going to work for an international law firm that was like the collective hallucination of Stanley Kubrick, the Marx Brothers, and the now-deceased Supreme Leader of Turkmenistan.

Paul’s travails at the law firm ended thus: “Typically, the decision to leave a law firm is one that’s undertaken after careful consideration and reflection. In my case, the firm made things easier by firing me, marching me downstairs, and throwing me out onto the street. Me and the apple I'd been planning to have for a snack that afternoon. Hey, thanks.”

And now, Doubleday has published Paul’s first novel, Design Flaws in the Human Condition. The back of the book tells you all:

Set in Manhattan - the conniption capital of the world - a riotously funny and fresh debut novel about anger, infidelity, and friendship.

Through a hilarious series of events, two strangers find themselves railroaded into an anger-management class, where they soon become fast friends. Iris is there because of an eminently justifiable meltdown on a crowded flight, whereas Ken got caught defacing library books with rude (but true!) messages about his former boyfriend - the boyfriend that he caught in bed with another man on the same night he got fired from his job proofreading in a law firm.

Needless to say, Iris and Ken were cosmically destined to be friends. What follows is a strikingly original comedy of (occasionally bad) manners as Ken enlists Iris to infiltrate his ex-boyfriend’s life in the hope of discovering that he’s miserable. And Iris reciprocates, dispatching Ken to work himself into the confidence of her own boyfriend who she suspects, is starting to stray. But what if Ken's ex isn’t crying himself to sleep? What if he’s not the amoral fiend Ken wants to believe he is? And what should Iris do when her worst suspicions start to come true? Exactly how perfect do we have the right to expect our fellow human beings to be?

Anger, betrayal, loyalty, and friendship - Design Flaws of the Human Condition explores these universal themes with wisdom, compassion, and a wickedly irreverent sense of humor.

And did we mention Paul is single?

The current issue of Out magazine had this to say:

“Debut novelist Schmidtberger’s take is very funny, and his hilarious observations about contemporary urban life, from its escapable therapy-speak to the damage done to the skyline by Donald Trump, play well alongside this ultimately sentimental story about the virtues of friendship. ... Schmidtberger’s wryly wrought characters lend authenticity to this confection of a summer novel.”

Doesn’t it sound like just the sort of thing to get you through the dog days of summer (or the rainy days of summer if you’re on the East Coast) and boring patches of Top Chef?

So get thee to Paul’s website, and to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or your local book emporium and get thee a copy. And write to Paul and let him know how much you liked it, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll explain about Jean-Paul Gaultier.

And now, as an amuse-bouche from Amuse-Biatch, to whet your appetite, here is the first page of the novel:

PROLOGUE. In Which the Peace and Tranquility of Manhattan Are Disturbed by an Unusual Meteorological Phenomenon.

Helvetica Carlyle, née Fahrtstaller, had never gotten a cab that quickly in her entire life, and Helvetica Carlyle, it has to be said, was an extremely demanding woman.

Was being the operative word.

At thirty-two feet per second, it took only about 3.8 seconds for her body to plunge from the seventeenth floor of her Park Avenue co-op down onto - or more precisely, through - the roof of the taxi that had just pulled up to the awning outside the building. The cab driver, one of three Bangladeshi brothers who shared a single studio apartment, a single driver’s license, and a single counterfeit green card, panicked and clawed his way out of the car, leaving the passengers, a well-dressed elderly couple, sitting face-to-face with the corpse. They exchanged a long look before the wife finally sighed, leaned forward, bent back what remained of one of Helvetica’s ears and peered behind it.

“Oh, that lying little such and such,” she said. “She did have work done.”


Melanie said...

I'll be getting a copy of this to read. Thanks for the recommendation!

ArtfulSub said...

You could send every one of your readers thousands of SPAM emails per day and still not approach Bravo's level of obnoxious.

Tell your author friend, who must be in his 30s/40s unless he graduated from Stanford Law before puberty, that he looks like a teen-aged Buddy Holly in all his publicity photos.

Ms. Place said...

Oh, my. What an hysterical opening paragraph. I laughed, which is a tough thing for me to do in the morning. Will peruse the book shelves at B&N and look for your friend's tome. How delicious. A novel about my favorite love story topic: Anger Management.