STARRED REVIEW
January 2019

Talk to Me

By John Kenney

It’s a phenomenon that has become all too familiar in the age of YouTube: An embarrassing video of a celebrity goes viral, obliterating a reputation with the speed and thoroughgoing devastation of an F5 tornado. In Talk to Me, his sly second novel, John Kenney (author of Truth in Advertising, which won the Thurber Prize for American Humor in 2014) dives into the muck of one such scandal, exploring its human toll while raising troubling questions about what it means to produce and consume news today.

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It’s a phenomenon that has become all too familiar in the age of YouTube: An embarrassing video of a celebrity goes viral, obliterating a reputation with the speed and thoroughgoing devastation of an F5 tornado. In Talk to Me, his sly second novel, John Kenney (author of Truth in Advertising, which won the Thurber Prize for American Humor in 2014) dives into the muck of one such scandal, exploring its human toll while raising troubling questions about what it means to produce and consume news today.

The anchor of a highly rated network news show for two decades, Ted Grayson looks like he’s on top of his game. But when his ire at a young immigrant woman leads to a meltdown that’s captured on video, he’s launched on a downward spiral that threatens his career and causes him to question everything he thought he knew about being a journalist. Compounding Ted’s crisis is an impending divorce and the fact that his daughter, Franny, works as a reporter at the bottom-feeding website scheisse.com, run by a young German billionaire whose motto is “NO RULES. JUST CLICKS,” and who’s only too happy to capitalize on Ted’s sudden fall.

Kenney takes the reader inside the maelstrom of the 24/7 news cycle, as an increasingly bewildered Ted watches his world collapse around him, helpless to counteract the forces fueling his destruction. In Ted, Kenney has created a sympathetic and fully realized protagonist who’s haunted by the price he’s paid for a success that now seems hollow, by the decay of his marriage to a woman he still loves and by an estrangement from his daughter that’s deep enough to allow her to become complicit in his downfall.

For all the fast-paced and knowing entertainment it provides, Talk to Me may also serve as a useful antidote to rushed judgment when the next celebrity scandal erupts.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Talk to Me

Talk to Me

By John Kenney
Putnam
ISBN 9780735214378

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