#Bookhour discussion on “Odds Against Tomorrow”

Participating August 30 in the US Studies Online twitter discussion  #Bookhour. The book this time at #Bookhour is Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich, and the chat session is organised by Christina Brennan. Odds Against Tomorrow is a book I’m examining in my current research on the narration of waterfronts in crisis in US and Nordic fiction.

From the #Bookhour site:

“Dr Arin Keeble, Dr Sebastian Groes and Dr Lieven Ameel will join #bookhour organiser Christina Brennan to discuss the title.

About the book 

New York City: The Near Future: Mitchell Zukor, a gifted young mathematician, is hired by a mysterious new financial consulting firm, FutureWorld. The business operates out of a cavernous office in the Empire State Building; Mitchell is employee number two. He is asked to calculate worst-case scenarios in the most intricate detail, and his schemes are sold to corporations to indemnify them against future disasters. This is the cutting edge of corporate irresponsibility, and business in booming.

As Mitchell immerses himself in the mathematics of catastrophe – ecological collapse, global war, natural disasters – he becomes obsessed by a culture’s fears.  Yet he also loses touch with his last connection to reality: Elsa Bruner, a friend with her own apocalyptic secret, who has started a commune in Maine. Then, just as Mitchell’s predictions reach a nightmarish crescendo, an actual worst-case scenario overtakes Manhattan. Mitchell realises he is uniquely prepared to profit. But at what cost?

Discussion Questions

1. Odds Against Tomorrow tells the story of an acute catastrophe. Can literature deal with the challenges of slow catastrophe, especially those related to ecological crisis?

2. What does the Psycho Canoe evoke or symbolise in Odds Against Tomorrow?

3. Which real world disasters does Hurricane Tammy in the novel most strongly evoke?

4. Why does Elsa end up as a New York lawyer?

5. How are agency and responsibility for the future framed in Odds Against Tomorrow, and what can it tell us about literature in times of crisis?”

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