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The unnamed narrator in Duteurtre's unrewardingly whiny novella has something to get off his chest—customer service in the computer age is, it seems, a shambles. Telephones are answered by machines, high school kids are technology gurus, airlines are inflexible, and don't even get him started on the trouble of remembering PINs and passwords. The ensuing 74-page rant takes this frustrated 40-something narrator through all of these experiences and more, as he riffs on all that is wrong with the world today while trying to finish a magazine assignment and change his cell phone plan. The thin plot involves the narrator trying to discover whether the cell phone company's director of customer service actually exists. The catalogue of frustrations will be familiar to everyone, but the many pages of grousing are not cathartic, funny or enlightening. It's like Andy Rooney wrote a French novella. (Sept.)
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"…the recent financial collapse helps make this novella more relevant than ever. [It] is an entertaining book and yet another example of the great work Melville House is doing in their Contemporary Art of the Novella series."
Praise for Benoît Duteurtre's The Little Girl and The Cigarette
"What I admire most about The Little Girl and the Cigarette: the clarity with which this novel unmasks the fundamental stupidity of our modern world; the black humor that transforms horror into a fascinating danse macabre."
"(Duteurtre) is a cultural bomb thrower."
—International Herald Tribune
"The novel goes down swinging—it gets its excited jabs in at everything from the nanny state to the way that children rule the adult world like tiny tyrants."
—Paul Constant, The Stranger
"A fascinating...fable of the terrifying power of public opinion."
"Duteurtre suggests that our obsession with children is pure narcissism—we outlaw our freedoms not because we love children but because we want to be them. And when we rebel, we do it because we long for the reassurance that having boundaries gives. It is maddening to watch this bureaucrat refuse to acknowledge his own childish behavior—like puffing secretly upstairs in a relative's nonsmoking home—as he rails against everyone else. On one hand, you empathize with his fight for personal liberties. On the other, you wish he'd just grow up and behave. Ultimately, he comes off as whiny, self-absorbed and unsympathetic. But this is precisely the point: We can see him no other way."
—Karrie Higgins, The Los Angeles Times
"As an unfiltered hit of misanthropy, the book goes down strong and bitter, leaving behind a craving for more."
—David Ng, The Village Voice
"How did a small French novel beat the odds to become a quiet cult hit in Chicago?"
—Time Out Chicago
"Both funny and unsettling."
"A joy to read, as much as it is alarming."