Monthly Archives: May 2011

Brooks takes a seriously funny look into the future of America

Boston.com | link ›
By Diane White

Albert Brooks is a keen and critical social observer, attested by his work as screenwriter, director, actor, and comedian. His first novel, “Twenty Thirty: The Real Story of What Happens to America’’ is an inspired work of social science fiction, thoughtful and ambitiously conceived, both serious and seriously funny.

In the year 2030 the United States is trillions of dollars in debt to China. Cancer has been cured, so more people are living longer, draining the Treasury with health care and other entitlements, while remaining youthful due to various medical and cosmetic breakthroughs. Millions of insensible people are kept alive, hooked up at great cost to expensive machines to appease powerful religious lobbies, and the influential nursing home industry. Young people feel they have no future and resent the “olds’’ for gobbling up their tax dollars. “He never even sent me a birthday present,’’ says one young man of his grandfather. “and now I have to pay for his wheelchair.’’ Continue reading

Albert Brooks on his new futuristic novel: I wanted it to read like a news story

Los Angeles Times | link ›
By Patrick Goldstein

It’s hard not to argue, with only the smallest apology to Larry David, that Albert Brooks has the most distinct comic voice of his generation. When we were talking the other day, just after the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. special forces in an affluent suburb of Islamabad, near an elite military academy and a lush golf course, Brooks said dryly: “It would be like Hitler living in Burbank. You’d have to think the Burbank police were in on it, wouldn’t you?”

Even though he is best known for directing and starring in a string of groundbreaking comic films like “Modern Romance” and “Lost in America,” Brooks, 63, has helmed only one movie since 1999, finding it easier to get work as an actor — he’s costarring in a new Judd Apatow film that shoots this summer. He’s also been busy penning his first novel, “Twenty Thirty: The Real Story of What Happens to America.” Due out Tuesday from St. Martin’s Press, the novel is a revelation, painting a caustic, unsettling and only occasionally comic portrait of a country plumb down on its luck. Continue reading

New York Times: A Comedian Laughs All the Way To Dystopia

New York Times | link ›
By Dave Itzkoff

LOS ANGELES — For a guy who just wrote a whole book about the myriad catastrophes that could befall the United States in the next 20 years, Albert Brooks says he’s not interested in end-of-the-world scenarios and, more to the point, he’s too nervous to contemplate them.

“We’ve seen those stories where three people are left, and Denzel Washington’s wearing tattered clothes,” a spirited Mr. Brooks said recently at his Beverly Hills office. “It’s a great possibility, but I don’t want to imagine it. I try to keep it out of my imagination.”

Yet when he peers into the near future in his comic debut novel, “2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America,” which St. Martin’s Press will release next Tuesday, Mr. Brooks, the comedian and filmmaker, doesn’t necessarily find a lot to laugh about.

The good news is that cancer has been cured; the bad news is that this and other innovations have prolonged people’s lives to untenable lengths, draining the resources of a broke and broken United States, and polarizing relations between the young and the old, and between the merely old and the superannuated. With the economy and the American dream in shambles, a huge earthquake hits Los Angeles, testing the administration of the country’s first Jewish president. Continue reading

NEW YORK TIMES book review: A Wry Eye on Problems of the Future

New York Times | link ›
By Janet Maslin

In his most recent film, “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,” Albert Brooks can be seen as a stand-up comic trying to entertain an audience in India. He tells a few jokes. Nobody laughs. He wonders why. Then he has the bright idea that maybe the crowd simply can’t follow him. How many people in the auditorium understand English, he asks? Every person in the audience raises a hand.

There you have it: an only slightly exaggerated vision of Mr. Brooks’s thankless career on screen. For decades he has been creating, playing and directing characters whose gloom is justified by their failures, despite the great deadpan dialogue they deliver and the groundless optimism to which they cling.

A small but loyal audience deems Mr. Brooks brave, brilliant, obsessive, fanatical and pricelessly funny even when he falls flat. A much larger crowd, the “Finding Nemo” audience, knows him as the cute, fretful voice of an animated fish. He now finds himself courting a new demographic: people who like alarming books.

With “2030” Mr. Brooks has made the nervy move of transposing his worrywart sensibility from film to book. Two things are immediately apparent about his debut novel: that it’s as purposeful as it is funny, and that Mr. Brooks has immersed himself deeply in its creation. “2030” is an extrapolation of present-day America into the not-so-distant future, and it is informed by the author’s surprisingly serious attention to reality. Unlike the fantasy writer who foresees a gee-whiz future full of alluring gimmicks, Mr. Brooks has dreamed up escapism about problems we cannot escape.

“2030” has a large cast of characters, like the Nobel laureate who cured cancer and the American president who will change his country in profound, irreversible ways. It also has frightening prescience. A 9.1 earthquake hits the Pacific Rim, with devastating consequences. The dollar’s run as the world’s reserve currency is long over. Debt is the era’s overriding issue on both the personal and the political levels, because the cancer-free elderly have stopped dying on schedule. The young bitterly resent the old, and the old have good reason to be fearful.

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