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Jim Haskin is a very odd man, doing a very odd job, in a very odd country if this book is to be believed. An advertising guru in San Francisco, he owns a touchy feely company which boasts such wonders as a 'Dream Pod', a room for his team to relax in with sleeping bags, TVs and a cooler brimming with organic fruit tea. That's for their down time in between saving the world, promoting one eco-friendly item after another and doing other worthy things. Except behind the scenes, Jim Haskin is not that man. While his team are organising poetry slams to help homeless prostitutes, he's coming up with fight-back campaigns, showing that bleach makes a beach better, chemical spills aren't as bad as you first might think, and other quite inexplicable things.
Jim's background is important, too. Orphaned as a teenager, he has come a long way and is now living the American Dream on the outside, while inside his wife wastes away in a coma and his only son is off at boarding school causing trouble. He's a mixed up man, a myriad of contradictions, and yet he knows exactly who he is underneath it all. When asked to concoct his most extreme scheme yet he doesn't hesitate. Nothing he's done before will even come close to this. The world ain't seen nothing yet. It's time to go where no advertising has gone before...
This is a wonderfully wicked book that has the potential to impress or offend, depending on your sensibilities. It certainly won't appeal to everyone, but for the right audience I can imagine it being a hit. It's like nothing else I've read this year, and Jim is such a hideously lovable rogue that even with all his bad behaviour, I couldn't help but think he'd be a great person to have in your circle of friends.
The tone is at times forthright, at times sarcastic. The observations often lack emotion, and yet you can tell exactly what Jim is thinking. His image might be more deceptive than others', but they are the ones whose logic is way off ($4000 mountain bikes and $65 organic cotton t-shirts, because cars are bad and pesticides are bad, but consumerism lives on). Jim is a business man who knows how to play the game, but unlike some heroes, is playing several startlingly different games at once. And winning all of them. He is cynical, yes, but he's also talented, influential and astute.
At times it felt more like the book was about the writing than the plot. There are various multi-page rants, short, stabbing lists (reminding me of Baz Luhrmann's Sunscreen but with far less point), and lots of letters from Connor, but ultimately the book is about the ending, even if it takes a while before the journey there really starts.
I'm still a little undecided about this book. It wasn't something I could read casually, but more something I had to concentrate on, and yet there were several wicked passages that made me grin gleefully and clap my hands in enjoyment. It's the sort of thing you have to be in the right frame of mind for, but when you are it's an intriguing and original read, and confims what you've always supsected about getting a chin tattoo: it Hertz
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
American Weather is out now in paperback and on Kindle