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August 31 , 2008

Los Angeles, or American Pharaohs


Robert, a 30-something independent filmmaker in Los Angeles, is hearing voices in his head. Alice Hershlug, a Jewish movie star who recently won the Academy Award, is slowly torturing him via The Grapevine, a kind of mental telephone.

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The novel appears to be an Anti-Semitic rant, written by a lonely Jew who has apparently been accused of being a child molester. It cuts rapidly back and forth between the narrator’s vitriolic prose which accuses American Jews and other plutocrats of ruining the country, the trials and tribulations of Robert as he navigates Hollywood and the mental health system, and the machinations of several Hollywood insiders as they stab each other in the back to rise to the top.

The island of Manhattan turns into a sailing ship and blasts through the strait of Gibraltar on the way to visit Jerusalem, a psychiatric treatment facility gets possessed by some kind of evil demon named Cheeto, and Hoovey Weinerschnitzel abandons his religion to found an evil cult.

Part political diatribe, part philosophical essay, part picaresque, the novel explores the implications of the new post-2008 U.S. economy on the human psyche, relations between Jew and Gentile, between American and Israeli Jews, between thought and reality, and tries to figure out where the hell America can go next.

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