The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse

I picked up The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse by Jonathan Selwood in Borders at Sea-Tac airport on the way home from a conference in Vancouver – I only had work reading with me and I’d had less than 5 hours of sleep the previous night and I wanted some fluff. I started reading it in the “B” line as I waited to board my flight to Chicago Midway and found myself unable to stop until I had finished it (which was well before we arrived in Chicago). The whole time I read, I was sort of befuddled, not quite sure what was going on, but I had the sensation that I was in a semi barreling out of control down a mountain that finally manages to find one of those gravel pit “runaway truck” pulloffs and comes to a rest, leaving everything quiet after the dust and rock finally settles.
The book takes place in Los Angeles over the course of about 36 hours after what we have to assume was a moderate earthquake – the narrative is peppered with aftershocks and earthquake-related damage. I can’t even begin to summarize it, so I’ll just quote the entire blurb on the back of the book…

For years, painter Isabel Raven has made an almost-living forging Impressionist masterpieces to decorate he McMansions of the not-quite-Sotheby’s-auction rich. But when she serendipitously hits on an idea that turns her into the “It Girl” of the L.A. art scene, her career takes off just as the rest of her life heads south. Her personal-chef boyfriend is having a wild sexual dalliance with the teenage self-styled “Latina Britney Sear.” If Isabel refuses to participate in an excruciatingly humliating ad campaign, her sociopathic art dealer is threatening to “gut her like an emu.” And her reclusive physicist father has conclusively proven that the end of the world is just around the corner.
Now, with the Apocalypse looming — and with only a disaffected Dutch-Eskimo billionaire philanthropist and his dissolute thirteen-year-old adopted daughter to guide her — there’s barely enough time remaining for Isabel to reexamine her fragile delusional existence… and the delusional reality of her schizophrenic native city.

The blurb… it sums up the book, and yet it … really doesn’t. It’s a wild ride through our the world of celebrity obsession, L.A. superficiality. The packaging itself is deliciously, self-conscilously referential… we’re invited to follow the rest of the story at Isabel’s website, to learn about “how and when exactly the world will end at, and of course the author’s website is listed on the back, too. To say nothing of the delightfully snarky “reading group guide” which leads with the question “Did anyone actually bother to read the book or should we just start in on the Pinot Gris” and ends with “Fuck Selwood. Let’s spark up a fatty and watch Battlestar Galactica.”

And yet, I’m still not quite sure what I thought of it.


1 Comment

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