These are reviews/thoughts/musings of books read recently. All books rated on a scale of 1-5. Today’s review is on Jack Dougherty’s 2013 satire ‘Corporate America’.
Corporate America is a book that labels itself a ‘corporate satire’, but in reality is a thinly veiled blowjob to corporate life packed full of disdain for creatives. Far from making fun of ‘everybody’, as author Jack Dougherty claims, his book throws its most mean-spirited, pointed jabs at activists, literary types and journalists and spends a wince-inducing amount of time romanticizing the beauty of the big corporation.
Full disclosure: I work at a large corporation, for clients that are some of the largest brands/consumer corporations in the world. I’m not the butt of Mr. Dougherty’s barbs, I’m not against big corporations, and I get as annoyed at overzealous activist groups as the next guy. This book still made me feel like I needed to take a shower.
Our hero, Francis Scanlon, is a 20-something aspiring novelist and intellectual that routinely drops quotes from literary figures and name drops everybody from Voltaire to Paul Auster. However, after being banished from intellectual circles for being smarter and edgier than everybody around him, Francis stumbles into a job at the fictional Fortune 500 Prock Chocolate Corporation, where he grudgingly begins using his skills to further the company’s agenda.
He slowly realizes that Big Chocolate is actually not an evil corporation at all but rather a good hearted company, mercilessly and undeservedly being attacked by greedy interest groups and snotty investigative journalists. In the meantime, Francis continues to advance his career, dress better (complete with strange, unironic American Psycho-like details on the designer clothes he begins to wear), idolizes the company CEO as a hero of business and transforms into a smooth-talking ladies man, able to bang pretty much anybody he wants.
This last part is curious, especially as 30 pages establishes Francis as nervous around women as he literally torpedoes his literary career and Stanford scholarship by offending a female poet he was attracted to by sticking his foot in his mouth when trying to hit on her. There’s a weird scene midbook where Francis goes to yoga with his attractive female boss and randomly drops that he was starting to develop a six pack. It’s like 300 pages of the author’s personal fantasy. Also, the message here is clear: want to dress nicer, make more money, be more suave and fuck the world’s most desired women? Work for corporate America!
Not too concentrate too much on plot here, as this book is meant to be light, mindless fare, but the third act of the book falls apart spectacularly. Francis’ boss turns into an enemy for no discernible reason, there is a climactic courtroom scene seemingly without a point and resolution, a bombing from a Muslim extremist group (?) and 50 pages of mind-numbingly stupid plotting that honestly feels that Dougherty made things up as he want along and was never edited or reviewed by anybody. Which is fine if you’re writing a dumb blog that nobody reads (ahem…) but this is a published, real novel. Come on, man.
Imbecilic plotting aside, the main reason this book is shit is because the worldview expressed in it is gross. I want to call out the below passage from early in the novel, when Francis goes to Poland to deal with a PR disaster after one of the company’s chocolate factories explodes and injures/kills multiple people (which turns out out to be the fault of a rogue individual and was in no way the company’s fault, of course). I think it’s an attempt at comedy, but serves as one of the most vile, racist things I’ve ever read in a novel:
The teenage waitress—barely legal, clad in a skintight pair of tie-dyed navy, lime and white lycra pants—was leaning against the bar, tapping ash into the ashtray and checking me out. She laughed as she watched me tear into the Mr. Snaki chips. My God, the architecture of these Slavic women, I thought. Those cheekbones; those legs up to here. At fourteen they looked thirty and you’d go to jail for interfering with them. At thirty they looked sixty and you fled from them. To find one in that exquisite in-between phase—it was a short window, ten years, max, before the smoking, diet, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, abortions, and pollutions caught up with them—ah, that was to know an experience no cheerleader-bonking jock from Kentfield would ever experience. I smiled at her. She bit her lower lip. (44)
I’m far from being one of those guys to get offended at anything that can be deemed provactive, but that was honestly one of the grossest things I’ve seen someone write in a very long time. Coming from a Slavic background, I would like to respectfully invite Mr. Dougherty to take his garbage novel and shove it right up his ass, right there next to all the shit that he seems to be so full of.