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Books

Cover for Happyland
Happyland
J. Robert Lennon
Happy Masters, the mastermind behind a phenomenally successful doll company, sets out to create her dream town with little regard for the people who already live there. Happyland is a delightfully sinister novel, which dares to question the ideals of small-town America.
Why We Love It
It's hard to find a good satire that is also a truly good novel. Too often, one aspect flourishes as the expense of the other. Not so with Happyland, in which fascinating character, entertaining plot twists, and biting social commentary are all of a darkly funny piece. The first novel to be serialized in Harper's Magazine in 50 years, it is timely, smart, and a propulsively good read. But it is also something deeper: it is a broad social commentary that will leave you looking at everything from toy marketing to sex shows to college endowments with new eyes.

And although the focus is on Happy Masters, a doll and children's book mogul bent on imposing her kitschy vision of the good life on a reluctant college town, the sweeping satirical aims have as much to say about the tactics of the Bush/Rove machine as about small town politics. As Lennon put it, "It’s about people feeling powerless against someone who is a leader that they feel they did not choose."

Yes, Happyland has some deep themes for those who want to dive into them. But it is also a breezy, fun, and very funny read, as perfect for the beach as for the sweltering subway car. Happy June from us to you.
Cover for Zuleika Dobson
Zuleika Dobson
An Oxford Love Story
Max Beerbohm
"Death cancels all engagements," in this morbidly funny satire of undergraduate life at Oxford. When a beautiful magician swears she can love no man susceptible to her charms she sets off a dangerous taste for suicide among the college boys.
Why We Love It
One of the great British comic novels, Zuleika Dobson centers around another comely but ruthless woman, orphaned and ill-used in girlhood, wreaking havoc on a college town. In this case, that town is turn-of-the century Oxford, and some of the book's chief charms come from whisking around the ancient halls and courtyards as special guests of the Muse of History (who, we learn, has a taste for trashy novels).

The tone is cool irony but the feel is lush and magical, from the cinematic descriptions to the light supernatural touches to the good-natured but far from gentle mocking of late Romantic sentimentality, of the worship of style and celebrity over substance, and of an ideal of manhood that leads our men to pledge their lives to pointless causes.

It is the perfect read for anyone feeling fed up with the trendy, the wealthy, or the young.