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Authors: Kurt Andersen

Turn of the Century

BOOK: Turn of the Century
7.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


“An artfully plotted and often very funny novel … 
Turn of the Century
is a convincing portrayal of the rhythms and stresses of a high-powered two-career marriage.”


“Andersen jacks you into the nerve center of the media society and pins your eyelids open until you go nearly blind with overload. He wins back terrain for the novel that has been ceded to new media, demonstrating that the novel is as alive and as nimble as its high-tech competitors. He’s got a book chock-full of references to today that stick out like neon Post-It tags … yet he’s infused it with so much inventive imagination that it transcends all that.… He’s managed to write a book portraying our fragmented lives that is not itself fragmented. In other words, he’s shown that the novel is flexible enough to encompass the chattering of its electronic cousins and, in the end, to hush them.”

The New York Times Book Review

“A big, Tom Wolfe-ish New York comic novel … an ironic take on the last breath of the century.”


“Packed with everything that’s made the decade what it is today—it’s an astonishing doorstop of a debut that deconstructs the 1990’s by peering just over the border into the next decade. It’s a fresh and frequently very funny point of view … his tour of the near future says volumes about the present.… The first most promising novelist of the Third Millennium … Can’t wait to see what he does with the next decade.”

Entertainment Weekly

“A blockbuster fiction debut … this brilliantly conceived, keenly incisive social satire draws fresh humor out of the overhyped territory of millennial madness. Andersen’s eye is fresh and his irony carries a potent sting. Andersen employs a biting topical humor that is always exaggerated, yet seldom actually seems inconceivable. While the tone is hyperbolic and beyond the cutting edge, the core issues are curiously old-fashioned: love, ethics, friendship, even happiness. Andersen brilliantly sustains the comic pace throughout the lengthy narrative.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“Deftly written … Andersen has delivered a thorough and understated satire of America in the very near future.”


“Impressive: a well-imagined picture of an info-teeming, overmediated, very possible near future … [a] hyper-sharp satire of business, media and manners … a sweet, mature love story. Andersen has clearly taken good notes while working in and commenting on the culture industry … his satire is militantly up-to-the-minute.”


“It comes alive like a caffeine jolt. Mr. Andersen is indeed way cleverer than your average bear, and when it comes to the details of how news and entertainment are cooked up and what it’s like to work with ‘the big owner-operators of American culture,’ he’s about as knowledgeable as you can get.”

New York Observer

“Astonishing … the most unclichéd novel imaginable … Mr. Andersen is endlessly energetic and seems to know just about everything. Fortunately, most of the digressions are informative, wickedly satirical or outrageously funny and often all at once.”

The New York Times

“Intriguing, entertaining, and persuasive … Andersen’s choice of topic and his style bring inevitable comparisons to Tom Wolfe.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“It’s a funny book! In his sardonic first novel, Kurt Andersen serves up a wicked Manhattan.”


“Andersen certainly has caught the drumbeat of our times, he catches us as we truly are in our attempt to make the best of the society we have wrought.”


“The high point of the book is the amazing and amusing catalog of references to modern culture. Andersen inserts real people, places, and events into a barrage of images that includes Bill Gates, L.A., the NASDAQ, interspecies organ transplants, and the Beanie Baby craze.”

Library Journal

A Delta Book
Published by
Dell Publishing
a division of
Random House, Inc.
1540 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1999 by Kurt Andersen

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. For information address: Random House, New York, New York

is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc., and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-307-78557-2






This is a work of fiction—which should go without saying, given that the story is set in the future. Any similarity between an imaginary character and a living person is coincidental. Although dozens of well-known real people are mentioned in the book, and a few speak, the actions and dialogue attributed to them are fictional. Imaginary products and companies are also intermingled freely with real ones, but where real companies are mentioned, many of the events and products and characters connected with them are imaginary, and none of these fictional creations should be construed as depictions of real events, people, or things. For instance, there is no place like BarbieWorld operating under Mattel’s auspices. The portrayal of Microsoft’s business practices and executives is fictional. And while the description of computers’ vulnerability to hackers is accurate, the author has no detailed knowledge of any particular company’s systems or security procedures.




He has just
left an early breakfast meeting—very early—with three men he’s never met before. He’s never heard of the men, in fact, and he planned to blow off breakfast until his partner told him he should go, because the men are important and potentially useful. He trusts his partner, who used to work for their agency. They are agents, all three of the men at breakfast, but agents who made it very clear that they prefer never to be called agents. He is already confusing and forgetting their names, even though the men’s main purpose in coming to town, they strongly suggested, was to meet him and tell him they would love to be in business with him. That’s the phrase these people always use: “We would love to be in business with you,” said in a breathy, solemn, confidential way that makes it sound profound and salacious. He is walking up the Avenue of the Americas, just south of Forty-seventh Street, now thinking of almost nothing but the morning sunlight pouring over from the right, making the line of proud, gray, dumb, boxy giants on the left—Smith Barney, Time-Life, McGraw-Hill, News Corporation—prettier than they deserve to be.

A pair of mounted police walking past him, about to make the turn onto Forty-seventh Street, snags his attention for an instant, the very
instant a signal reaches the tiny device wedged in his left inside jacket pocket. It is forty-two minutes and forty seconds past eight on the twenty-eighth of February.

Between his right thumb and forefinger he grips a huge paper coffee cup, and, with the other three fingers, the handle of his briefcase. As the device’s programmed sequence proceeds, there is no noise, not even a click, only a tiny, continuous, hysterical vibration. In the first quarter second, the muscles in his chest tense and his left nipple goes erect. He takes a short, sharp, surprised breath and, without thinking, flings the coffee toward the gutter, then grabs at his left pocket with his right hand. But already the first instant of dumb panic has congealed to dread—
two seconds
—as he claws to find the device, to punch the button, to shut the thing down before the sound—
three seconds … four seconds
—before it is too late.

It is too late.

,” says the young man kneeling and looking up at George Mactier. His eyebrows, George sees, are sculpted into what look like Morse code dots and dashes, each eyebrow a different letter. “What the
you, man, you fucking clumsy
, man! Shit.”

The messenger’s electronic signature-slate clipboard and his Day-Glo green nylon satchel of envelopes are drenched now in steaming ultra-venti latte, skim milk, extra shot of espresso. His helmet—a glossy magenta with built-in radio mouthpiece, like a fighter pilot’s—has been knocked off the handlebars and into the street by George’s briefcase. The helmet is now skittering up Sixth like a pinball between the tires of an accelerating Harlem-bound M5—one of the dozen new, clear, vodka-bottle-shaped Absolut Transit buses the city has been given for Christmas. The two men each survey the wreckage. If only the restaurant’s espresso machine hadn’t been broken, George knows, he wouldn’t have stopped at Starbucks; if the espresso machine at the Millennium hadn’t been broken and he hadn’t stopped at Starbucks, this poor groovy schmo wouldn’t despise him, and the chasm between the races and the classes and the generations wouldn’t now gape a nanometer wider. Perhaps it was the fluttering of a satyrid’s wings in Bhutan that had roiled into a breeze in the South China Sea that blew across the Pacific and became a thunderstorm last week in Oakland, and that delayed the shipment of an espresso-machine valve to the Millennium.

“Maybe the helmet, maybe you can—”

“Maybe I can
, man? My boss is gonna motherfucking criticize my ass so bad, man,” the messenger says, looking up at George. “You know that? He’s
, man!”

BOOK: Turn of the Century
7.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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