Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World
First edition cover
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Pages||192 pp (first edition, hc)|
Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World is a 1993 novel by American author Donald Antrim. It is Antrim's first published novel. The novel depicts the grisly, and occasionally surreal misadventures of a downsized schoolteacher, Pete Robinsion, in a vaguely post-apocalyptic America.
Things have gone awry in a small, seaside community somewhere in the American subtropics. The local citizenry is busy surrounding their homes with moats filled with broken glass, bamboo spears and water moccasins; the school has been converted into a factory creating talismans from marine animals; and the public library's duplicate books are being used to detonate claymore mines in Turtle Pond Park. Violent feuds are raging amongst certain elements of the citizenry. A strange animistic religion grips the local Rotary Club, and subsequently alters the mindset of the protagonist's wife.
As the novel opens, Pete Robinson is supervising the drawing and quartering of the town's mayor by four automobiles. We learn that Pete Robinson is an expert in the history of torture, with special emphasis on the inquisition, and that he was formerly an elementary schoolteacher before the local school system was entirely defunded. Pete's ambition to run for mayor after resurrecting the local educational system under his own administration—and the thwarting of this ambition—are major elements of the novel's plot. Other elements of the plot include Pete's thwarted attempts to bury pieces of the former Mayor's body in Egyptological rituals, and his wife Meredith's growing detachment as she becomes more involved in icthyomorphic trances in which she transforms herself into a coelacanth, or ancient fish.
The novel has no chapter breaks, and has been called a "picaresque of comic surrealism." However Jeffrey Eugenides writes:
"'Dystopic' describes neither the madness nor the method here. The heart of Antrim’s enterprise, the thing that allows him to make credible his wild surmises, is his keen insight into social and marital relations and his masterful linguistic skills. Antrim sketches his characters—Rotarians, tennis buﬀs, suburban moms, wayward teens—with indelible lines. They speak a perfectly rendered American argot. They go about their lives doing all the things comfortably domesticized Americans do. They attend potluck suppers, ogle one another’s spouses, chauﬀeur children to appointments, borrow plumber’s snakes, all in pursuit of happiness in a place where happiness can no longer exist."
- Pener, Degen (October 10, 1993). "EGOS & IDS; The Day Civility Died". New York Times. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- Kiesling, Lydia. "Elect Donald Antrim for a Better World". The Millions. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- "Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World". Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- Eugenides, Jeffrey. "Jeffrey Eugenides Hails Donald Antrim's 'Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 18 February 2014.