The Great Man Theory
Paul is an angry white man of a certain age who believes he is superior to those around him because he has a college degree, teaches composition at a small college, and rejects technology in favor of more noble pursuits. In short, Paul is unlikable. He is also the protagonist of Teddy Wayne’s The Great Man Theory, and spending so much time with him may be bad for your health if you know men like him in real life.
The college cuts back on staff and Paul is a victim—just another reason he can claim that status—so he moves back in with his mother to save money. As a liberal do-gooder who rarely actually does good, Paul ridicules his mother’s interest in a right-wing channel (a thinly veiled Fox news) and the musings of its most popular anchor, Colin Mackey (a barely disguised Tucker Carlson). Paul finds his mother’s politics abhorrent but never once tries to learn why she’s drawn to the conservative message; he chalks it up to her new boyfriend, whose misogyny and blow-hard-old-man-mannerisms are so rough certain readers may feel like their watching an old home movie of their bigoted late uncle.
To infiltrate the inner-sanctum of conservatism, Paul parlays his new side gig as a ride share driver into a casual relationship with a woman who works at the channel. All of this occurs alongside his slowly deteriorating relationship with his daughter, Mabel, who is the only bright spot in the book.
The Great Man Theory has a wildly satisfying ending, but the price to pay for it is spending time with Paul. And while I suppose Teddy Wayne is to be commended for creating such a loathsome character, I have to wonder what price he had to pay for bringing this retch to life.
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