generica's energetic satire of the publishing industry and its craven dependence on self-help slop grinds its axe way too hard. That's because Will Ferguson, author of Why I Hate Canadians, is a born ranter, and ranters don't make good novelists.
Generica charts the disaster that occurs when a badly written New Age tome discovered on the slush pile (unsolicited manuscripts) becomes a best-seller and starts changing America.
Imagine the U.S. without an edge -- without stress, fear or competition. Everyone is stupidly content, and a brilliantly varied society fades into monochrome. Ferguson has a bit of the spirit of Ayn Rand in him. He shares with her the feeling that he's vastly superior to the lazy, greedy and gullible people he writes about.
Because he's at heart a writer of screeds, these people are more whipping boys than characters. Many that could have been interesting -- the ambitious boomer publisher, the hapless stand-in for the writer and Edwin's unlucky paramour, May -- are abandoned so that Ferguson can keep pounding away at his anti-New Age point.
He also tries to send up the publishing industry in the new millennium without factoring in the influence and threat of e-business. Evidently he's so busy observing what he wants to see that he doesn't notice the obvious.
He reads at Penguin's Pure Fiction event tonight (Thursday, April 19). See listings, this page.
GENERICA by Will Ferguson (Penguin), 309 pages, $24 paper. Rating: NN