Reviewer James Broderick, Ph.D: James is an associate professor of English and journalism at New Jersey City University. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he is the author of six non-fiction books, and the novel Stalked. His latest book is Greatness Thrust Upon Them, a collection of interviews with Shakespearean actors across America. Follow Here To Listen To An Interview With James Broderick.
Author: Richard Buzzell
Author: Richard Buzzell
If you ever wondered what happened to Holden Caulfield, the youthful misanthrope at the center of J.D. Salinger’s epic manifesto of teenaged ennui, Catcher in the Rye, I have a theory: he grew up, settled in Toledo, Ohio, got married and had a son nicknamed Corky, who became, like his father, a disaffected student who dropped out of college to run an anti-capitalism website.
How better to explain the very Holden-like enmity toward globalized society in general and suspicion of corporate oligarchy in particular that fuels ZombieStop Parade, a novel-diary-manifesto by Richard Buzzell?
This is a book that succeeds – but only in spurts. The story is presented as a series of journal entries that span almost one year, from Jan.1 to Halloween. Each entry gives a piece of the story of the founding, growth, and rise to prominence of a website called ZombieStop (run by college-aged Corky), which aims to be an antidote to the onslaught of propaganda put forth by global corporations and their media enablers. The narrator, Corky’s assistant (and the site’s mascot ZombieStopperUno) tells the story in plain, unadorned prose.
There are really two books here, always fighting each other for narrative prominence. The parts of the book that work well for me are the frequent and articulate attacks on corporate greed and the social structures that reinforce the notion that what’s good for General Motors (or Citibank, or Enron) is good for America. Buzzell has a searing intelligence and a frighteningly adroit reading-between-the-lines perspective on what’s happening in a Bernie Madoff-style America. There are dozens of paragraphs here that simply shine as iconoclastic and eloquent statements about what’s wrong with the contemporary economic picture. And Buzzell has the historical awareness to see how current exploitative corporate practices have derived from previous epochs (the narrator cites the enshrinement of the widely accepted “myth” that supply and demand operate independent of political considerations as one example of how corporations can falsely claim they are, in fact, accountable – even though they’ve created the myth themselves.)
But the majority of the book involves a story that simply doesn’t go anywhere, despite numerous teases that things are about to get interesting. Characters are brought in who seem to promise some dramatic momentum – a mysterious FBI agent, a meddlesome girlfriend, a documentary filmmaker – but the narrative makes almost no use of them. They exist merely as sounding boards for Corky (who speaks through the narrator) to offer further harangues about the corporate theocracy. I kept waiting for something – anything – surprising to happen. The book dangles the prospect of some real intrigue – allusions to a couple of terroristic bombings and a couple of mysterious posters in the website’s forum called the Jackal and the Wolverine – but nothing more is said of them.
Buzzell’s antenna is clearly attuned to the subtle ways in which the promise of a globalized Utopia can sour, turning the milk of human kindness rancid. His insights are often stunning. One ardently hopes he finds a story worthy of them.
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