I cried and laughed out loud so many times throughout this book (a couple moments that inspired both were the breakdown of how it feels to have $25 billion dollars vs. $20 billion in your bank account and 'The Golden Child' volume/valium story). Similar (to me) to 'The Instructions''s main character, Belt's style of breaking down a single moment of thought was so addictive. I kept wanting more but some paragraphs/pages made me feel like I just ran a brain marathon, so many breaks from reading were taken. That's not a diss. As a once physically sick and mentally questionable child from a family on a tight budget, I felt the mother/son flashbacks were perfect in so many ways. I'm fighting back the urge to jabber on about how much I loved these moments. Many near-tears reading those. Heavy tears after her letters to Belt near the middle of the novel. The father/son relationship was very hard to decipher at first, but the third third of the book was swimming in wonderful interactions. SPOILER PART: The only part that made me squirm was Adam Levin being inserted into the book. With all of the references to Vonnegut throughout, I was pretty sure this was a LevinMagnet/VonnegutTrout homage situation, so I wanted to like it. But still feel squirmy. That whole letter-segment in France with the product placement of his wife's book (it worked, however, I'm gonna pick up a copy, but...) just seemed thrown in as an inside joke. KIND OF SPOILER PART(?): When this ARC showed up at work, I flipped out. 'The Instructions' and 'Hot Pink' are favorites of mine, and I had no clue that a new book was even close to being available. I couldn't wait for my shift to end, so I could speed-finish the book I was into and get started on 'Bubblegum'. So during that shift, I impatiently drooled the back of the book multiple times. Now that I've finished it, I wish that the description would have left out the fact that the 'internet does not exist.' I would have liked to experience the novel having to figure that out for myself. When 'The Sixth Sense' was in theaters, I went with a friend who didn't own a TV and hung out with a crew that talked more about music and comic books than current movies. During the first half of the movie she was visually and audibly disturbed by what she saw. Later on, when HJO tells BW that he sees dead people, I heard a slight her utter a slight "ahh...". Working at the movie theatre, I saw the trailer about 100 times before it was released so "I see dead people" was already an inside joke made with coworkers. She never saw the preview, so this moment (a good way into the film) was huge for my friend. I wish I never read the back of the book. It didn't ruin it. Just a hindsight thing. I did, too, find the idea that in a world without the internet, 9/11 took two extra days to organize amusing.
"Adam Levin is one of our wildest writers and our funniest, and Bubblegum is a dazzling accomplishment of wit and inventiveness." --GEORGE SAUNDERS
The astonishing new novel by the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award-winning author of The Instructions.
Bubblegum is set in an alternate present-day world in which the Internet does not exist, and has never existed. Rather, a wholly different species of interactive technology--a "flesh-and-bone robot" called the Curio--has dominated both the market and the cultural imagination since the late 1980s. Belt Magnet, who as a boy in greater Chicago became one of the lucky first adopters of a Curio, is now writing his memoir, and through it we follow a singular man out of sync with the harsh realities of a world he feels alien to, but must find a way to live in. At age thirty-eight, still living at home with his widowed father, Belt insulates himself from the awful and terrifying world outside by spending most of his time with books, his beloved Curio, and the voices in his head, which he isn't entirely sure are in his head. After Belt's father goes on a fishing excursion, a simple trip to the bank escalates into an epic saga that eventually forces Belt to confront the world he fears, as well as his estranged childhood friend Jonboat, the celebrity astronaut and billionaire. In Bubblegum, Adam Levin has crafted a profoundly hilarious, resonant, and monumental narrative about heartbreak, longing, art, and the search for belonging in an incompatible world. Bubblegum is a rare masterwork of provocative social (and self-) awareness and intimate emotional power.
About the Author
ADAM LEVIN is the author of The Instructions and Hot Pink. He has been a New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award winner, a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a National Jewish Book Award finalist. A long-time Chicagoan, Levin currently lives in Gainesville, Florida.
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2020 by The Boston Globe and The Chicago Tribune
“Adam Levin is one of our wildest writers and our funniest, and Bubblegum is a dazzling accomplishment of wit and inventiveness – an irrepressible and insanely entertaining examination of our obsessive culture that doesn’t forget to be fond of that which it is satirizing. Levin’s keen and ornery mind, reveling in the world with vast energy, shows us new ways of loving it.” George Saunders, author of the Booker Prize-winning Lincoln in the Bardo
“Adam Levin’s brilliant, inventive, fully imagined alternative world gives us insight and clarity about the actual world we live in. We are implicated, warned, but what a hilarious ride. Bubblegum is a wild, ambitious, and original novel. Levin is a wonder.” Dana Spiotta, author of Eat the Document
"Tantalizing." The Boston Globe
"Funny. . .moving. . .Levin creates a fascinating world with a wild and often touching coming-of-age story at its center." Publishers Weekly
“Levin is the new Mailer. Think The Naked and The Dead, remove World War II, insert the war we are in now; up the introspection, lower the Nobel posturing (Bubblegum!) and the pontificating of the self, keep the outsized ambition, make the damned book even larger. One wonders how the Mailer vacuum went empty this long. This is ambition and large-statement talent. The precision of the errancy is thrilling. This son of a bitch is perfect.” Padgett Powell, author of You & Me
"Punk's not dead. . .Bubblegum is crazy, erudite, and disturbing, a catalog of eccentricities and ferocious humor. . .Levin is one of those writers who keeps alive your faith in literature, in what books can do that Twitter, Instagram, and Netflix can't. He arouses hope for the future of the novel." Les Inrocks (France)
“With Bubblegum, Adam Levin has created a cubist painting about consumerism, fetishization, and the increasingly blurred line between life and advertisement in a hyper-materialist, post-IRL society. Levin masterfully creates a world without the internet to examine the impact and insanity it has sewn into the American project, and he does so while gleefully skewering our unraveling vernacular. A freaky marvel of a tome.” Catherine Lacey, author of Certain American States, The Answers and Nobody is Ever Missing “Bubblegum is startling. Ingenious in its form and meaning-making. Levin gives you everything. A hilarious and serious meditation on what we might become. To paraphrase one of its characters, the novel makes me feel understood.” Salvador Plascencia, author of The People of Paper
“A book may be said to be a kind of fist, and the readers of such a fist-book as Bubblegum can surely not predict or prepare for the ecstatic bewilderment of the encounter, particularly when they are greeted in the depths of it by long-form theoretical analysis of their plight.” Jesse Ball, author of Census