Seconds

Seconds
David Ely

If this book is remembered at all today it’s as the source for the 1966 John Frankenheimer film. This is a shame, because even though I love the movie, the book is just as good, if slightly different in tone. Essentially it’s a parable of the American dream (the frontier, freedom, mobility, self-improvement) turned into Kafkaesque nightmare (a corporate early-retirement package fronting for a butcher shop). I’m still not sure how the Company makes money out of all of this, but that’s a detail. What resonates is the sheer emptiness of Wilson’s life, and the lives of all the other unhappy and expendable middle-aged men who form the brotherhood of the reborn. Family means nothing (Wilson’s wife and daughter have quickly moved on) and religion is just a no-name bag of peanuts provided as in-flight entertainment while we travel to our final destination. It all adds up to one of the most despairing, nihilistic, and prophetic visions of the post-War zeitgeist. The dream had failed and you could smell the counterculture coming.