Find somebody who wants to be brainburned and use him, Pohl & Kornbluth, The Space Merchants


“I say, ‘Find somebody who wants to be brainburned and use him.’ ” 101

The greatness of an artist is in his simplicity, Courtenay. You say to me: ‘Nobody wants to be brainburned.’ That is because you are mediocre. I say, ‘Find somebody who wants to be brainburned and use him.’ That is because I am great.

Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants, Chapter 11, 101.

The Space Merchants is some kind of rollercoaster thriller that reminds me of no book more than the Alfred Bester classic The Demolished Man. Except that the sense of peril in that sci-fi thriller is replaced by the breathtaking cynicism of The Space Merchants. Reading this mid–20th Century novel today, in 2013, I couldn’t help feeling that in the world of The Space Merchants, we are all totally screwed.

I read the book quickly, but it rewards quick reading; the Walker and Company edition of 1969 that I borrowed from the local dusty library wraps up at 158 pages, so you can finish it as I did in a single evening.

The above quote is probably not the most representative in the book, but what it does represent to me is the rainforest-like lushness of the book’s conceit, that if ad executives ran the world, the human race would be more miserable and more deluded than at any time in the past. The solipsism, clichéd phrasing, and instrumentality evident in the 43 words are what make me labor over describing The Space Merchants on this blog.