#Books – Consumer Madness
Summer is a great time for reading. Especially when people are advised to stay at home. I have decided to share a list of great books that deal with modern topics such as consumerism, the rise of technology, and the edge of democracy. Today, I start with consumer madness.
Needful Things – Stephen King
I my opinion, Stephen King is a moralist, and not only a horror fiction writer (though brilliant). Through fantastic situations, King exposes the reader to the true nature of Western civilization. From that perspective, Needful Things shows the dark side of American consumerism. The story takes place in the town of Castle Rock, Maine (common to other novels like The Dead Zone or Cujo), where a new shop name “Needful Things” has just opened, sparking the curiosity of its citizens. Believe or not but the owner, Leland Gaunt, seems to find the perfect item for every customer. What’s more, he asks a very low price to each person. Except that he expects each client to play a little prank on someone else. But those little and funny pranks are about to catalyze resentment, jealousy, and paranoia in the town, leading to massive unrest and civil war scenes. In other words, King questions us on the psychological value of goods and services. What would you do to acquire the thing you have always dreamt about?
Syrup – Max Barry
Syrup is a satire on the marketing industry. Barry tells us the journey of Scat, a fresh graduate who comes up with an idea for a new Coca-Cola drink called “Fukk”, before realizing that one of his friends stole his idea and claimed the trademark. The result is a modern and hilarious piece about advertising and extreme capitalist competition. French readers might know 99 Francs, a novel written by Frédéric Beigbeder, that is very similar to Syrup and that was adapted into a movie with Jean Dujardin as leading actor. Beyond marketing madness, such novels anticipate the great delusion of late GenX and early Millennials, and the rise of so-called “nonsense jobs”.
Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk
It was not possible to talk about consumerism without citing Palahniuk. Of course, everyone has read Fight Club or watched David Fincher’s great adaptation. So, it’s worth talking about Survivor, Palahniuk’s second novel. In a few words, Tender Branson sits in the cockpit of a Boeing 747, telling his life story to the black box, and about to crash the plane. Tender is the surviving member of a death cult and is thrown into mainstream culture, becoming a personal icon for many people. Like Fight Club, this book is a dark novel that focuses on life atrocities and nonsense in American consumerist society. And like with Tyler Durden, the end is an apocalyptic perspective that will remind the reader that “on a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero”.