Gift Book of the Year: ''Design Flaws of the Human Condition'' by Paul Schmidtberger
For the friend has everything. The one who's read everything by David Sedaris. ''Design Flaws''-- debut work of a fantastic American ex-patriot--is the novel about heartbroken, revenge-seeking New Yorkers you've always wanted to read. And what about the bidding war for the movie rights, the Hollywood writers' strike, the name-dropping speculation on who will play the starring roles--Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightley, Christian Bale--the kid from ''Superbad'' and ''Juno''? Don't put the cart before the horse. You need to read the book first.
Iris is arrested on an airplane after an annoying cell phone talker causes her to snap. Ken is caught defacing books in the college library where he teaches composition--writing true epithets about his cheat of a boyfriend. Both are forced to attend anger-management sessions and bond. Then there's the third musketeer in this mandated-therapy arrangement. Jeff, the ingenue, is a graduate student. He's there because he heroically broke the face of a law-professor-in-disguise with an artfully thrown laptop during a psychology experiment researching some Stockholm Syndrome hypothesis.
The first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Yet, despite decrying how they were railroaded into Anger Management and tuning out the lecturer, they learn about themselves. While devising convoluted schemes to surveil and punish those who got them into their predicament, Iris and Ken reassess what they lack and what they may or may not have lost. But do the bastards get it in the end?
It's hard to find people on your same wavelength in any city, be it New York or Des Moines. Ending up with a couple of new friends and your criminal records expunged may be what it takes to break out of a predictable social cocoon.
More about the author Paul Schmidtberger
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