Chosen by Sophia
A satire in which Jack Gladney and his family endure an airborne toxic event after an industrial accident
☁ “Jack Gladney is a professor specialising in Hitler studies who is consumed with the idea of his death. His fourth wife Babette and his four children lead mundane lives, spending pages performing every day tasks in a typical Californian town.
Before the mundanity gets too much there is an event which shakes the family: the airborne disaster of Nyodene Derivative that invades their town and forces their evacuation. Jack’s previous obsession with death is justified as all the family face their own mortality in different ways.
Life and death are the central themes of the book and are treated philosophically. Jack, Babette and the children glean much information from media and books and freely discuss topics and and ideas that might be considered unusual for a typical American family.
The book is full of excessive consumerism, conspiracies and family woes in a tone that almost normalises fear and disasters. Every sentence seems to have a depth of meaning – even the title is perfect, relaying the everything but the nothingness that is poignant to people living in fear. Despite its serious subject matters the satirical, post-modern style made it feel much more light-heartened than the sum of its parts.
Only a catastrophe gets our attention. We want them, we depend on them. As long as they happen somewhere else. This is where California comes in. Mud slides, brush fires, coastal erosion, mass killings, et cetera. We can relax and enjoy these disasters because in our hearts we feel that California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.