The Last Book I Loved: Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World

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picture-8I’m not sure why it took me a bit to get into Donald Antrim’s Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, because the book begins with the quartering of the town mayor by automobile, which is pretty great. Antrim is an inventive writer and pulls some wild tricks—one early sex scene is narrated almost entirely in monosyllabic dialogue—that I was worried might become gimmicky. But Antrim has the talent and humor to meld these innovations into a propulsive narrative that climaxes in the most amazingly twisted ending I’ve read in years. A serious how on earth did he think this up and how did the publisher allow it? moment. The book follows Pete Robinson, a specialist in medieval torture methods, as he attempts to start an elementary school and considers running to replace the dismembered mayor. Also, he lives in a seaside town where rival families plant claymore mines in the park, residents are pressured into locating their spirit animals through New Age rhythms, and couples spend their days decorating fashionable death pits in their front yards. It has been a while since I’ve found a book both humorous and horrifying. Give this one a try.


Lincoln Michel‘s fiction has appeared in Granta, Oxford American, Tin House, NOON, Pushcart Prize anthology, and elsewhere. His essays and criticism have appeared in the New York Times, The Believer, Bookforum, Buzzfeed, VICE, the Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. He is the former editor-in-chief of Electric Literature and a founding editor of Gigantic. He is the co-editor of Gigantic Worlds, an anthology of science flash fiction, and Tiny Crimes, an anthology of flash noir. His debut story collection, Upright Beasts, was published by Coffee House Press in 2015. He teaches fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. He was born in Virginia and lives in Brooklyn. He tweets at @thelincoln. More from this author →