Talk to Me by John Kenney
Random House: 1/15/19
eBook review copy: 320 pages
Talk to Me by John Kenney is a very highly
recommended, brilliant, wry commentary on news in the current age of
social media and the fall-out which results from a public thrashing.
The narrative opens with Ted Grayson contemplating suicide by not
opening his parachute while skydiving. What would lead a man to this?
Ted is a fifty-nine-year-old beloved news anchor at the peak of his
career when an ill-advised profanity-laced outburst directed toward a
young hairstylist is recorded. She puts it on social media and the video
goes viral. As public opinion is created through sound bites in this
age of immediate gratification and most people seem to obtain their news
through social media and memes, the fall-out is instantaneous.
Unknown to most people is that Ted's personal life is already in
shambles. His wife of 30 years, Claire, has fallen in love with another
man and is planning to divorce him. He has been estranged for years from
his adult daughter,
Frances, a writer for a popular sensational fake news website. He
has some health concerns that he has kept secret from everyone. All Ted
really had was his career and onscreen news persona. Any question of
actually listening to Ted about what
happened and why he had the tirade is dismissed. Now he has nothing and
Ted's reputation and career are destroyed as the sound bites take over,
the press attacks continue,
and protests begin.
Talk to Me is outstanding. This is the novel that I have been
waiting to see written and Kenney does an excellent job capturing the
public outcry following a
ripped-from-the-headlines situation that has gone viral and is out
of control. In this age of news via assumptions, memes, quick
judgements, and instantly taking offense, Talk to Me demonstrates
how reporting the news has been replaced with people looking for the
sensational and the worst in all situations based on their viewpoints.
Stories are based on what is trending, with the number of comments
ruling. People are quick to form an opinion, be offended, and take a
stance based on incomplete or incorrect facts. Yeah, Ted seriously
messed up in a career-ending move and needed the wake-up call, but the
continued media onslaught was excessive.
The development of the characters is exceptional. They are all
selfish, damaged people, but Kenney's memorable portrayal makes them
sympathetic even when you question their judgement. The video of this
one mistake Ted makes has gone viral, but a life consists of many
mistakes. How many of us could endure the media scrutiny of every nuance
of our lives and come out flawless. They have all made a
shambles of their lives and the very public downfall of Ted's career
and the subsequent media feeding frenzy is amplifying their flaws. There
is a moment when a small glimmer of hope enters the narrative toward
the end that offers some hope.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin