Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“Brain candy this tasty is rare”

A review of EUDEMONIA, by Gary Kamiya, co-founder of Salon

Sophia Tonemai, the heroine of A.P. Schmitt’s remarkable debut novel
“Eudemonia,” is one of the smartest, strangest -- and in some ways
scariest --protagonists I’ve come across in a long while. A young
Brazilian journalist based in the United States of Hysterica, Sophia
is at once viciously intelligent, deeply compassionate, and alarmingly
cold-blooded. As a reporter, Sophia has witnessed the ugly crimes
committed by the powerful, and she is tortured by the fact that
corporate crooks and warmongering politicians always get away with
their misdeeds. So she becomes obsessed with the idea of punishing
them. Sophia wrestles with an ultimate moral question: Is an
individual justified in meting out punishment to evildoers? She’s the
highest-IQ vigilante in history – Hamlet with a silencer.
This premise might sound unpromisingly abstract, but Schmitt’s
stiletto-sharp dialogue, dazzling range of high and low cultural
references and laugh-out-loud satiric wordplay (“Faecesbook,” “Duck
Chainy”, “Goldman Sucks”) make her protagonist’s quest for moral truth
feel as much like a killer episode of “The Daily Show” as a Socratic
dialogue. (Example: “When it comes to death and killing I always felt
very natural about it, even as a child,” Sophia writes. “For a long
time I thought ‘Thou shalt not kill’ was a statement unfairly singling
out this guy, Thou, and I just wanted to know who did Thou kill to
deserve the mention. I can’t lie about it: I looked up to Thou.”) And
Schmitt captures Sophia's softer side, too, in her relationships with
two memorably-drawn friends.
There is a lot of great stuff in Eudemonia, and it is completely
original. Schmitt’s command of English is alarmingly precise, and she
is an amazingly talented writer and thinker. I have almost never come
across a writer both as smart and as funny as she is and have never
read anything quite like it. Eudemonia is an amazingly original piece
of work.
The way the moral conundrum is ultimately resolved, or not resolved,
may disturb some readers. But Sophia is such an original character,
and this sui generis philosophical/political thriller is so
thought-provoking, that you don’t mind. Brain candy this tasty is rare.

-- Gary Kamiya, co-founder of