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A tonic for self-help burnouts

The Angry Clam
The Angry Clam: The Greatest Story Never Told
By Erik Quisling

Warner: 1998

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This review first appeared in the September 19-20, 1998 issue of the American Reporter.

"The Angry Clam" is like "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" with one important difference: "The Angry Clam" knows that it is a very silly book.

"Jonathan Livingston Seagull," on the other hand, was insufferably serious – and, of course, enormously popular when published 25 years ago. In fact, it's still in print – still appealing to folks who look to brainless pabulum like "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" and the like for inspiration.

"The Angry Clam" takes on the whole self-help, pop psychology industry and mocks it. Mercilessly. Cruelly. Wonderfully.

It is, no surprise, about a clam. A clam who is mad at the world for not recognizing how special and individual he is.

And so he plots his revenge, taking advantage of various self-help scams in designing his ultimately doomed strategy.

This is a very short book – takes about 10 minutes to read, if that. The brief story is accompanied by the author's simple illustrations, which are all variations on two themes – clam sitting around, clam in fisherman's net.

No way to tell if this book will become a best-seller like "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" – it hits awful close to home for the tens of millions of Americans who buy insipid self-help and inspirational books. But for those of us who believe life is more than saccharine platitudes, it makes a nice tonic for all those dinner conversations where we were stuck listening to our relations go on and on about how wonderful "Love Story" or "The Notebook" were.