The French Revolution
By Matt Stewart
(Soft Skull Press, Paperback, 9781593762834, 320pp.)
Publication Date: June 2010
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Loosely structured on the greatest identity crisis ever, The French Revolution is the hilarious, tragic, and deeply imaginative story of a San Francisco family forging its place in history.
Esmerelda Van Twinkle, a failed pastry chef turned outsized copy shop manager, stumbles into motherhood after a semi-intentional liaison with good-natured coupon distributor Jasper Winslow. Born on Bastille Day, their twin children Robespierre and Marat revolt against archaic rules imposed by their autocratic grandmother, surmount radically misguided parenting, navigate factional infighting, and combat wars in the Middle East to achieve great personal gain.
But just as the family is on the cusp of achieving meteoric success in politics, business, music, and gastronomy, fissures from the past crack open spectacularly, derailing their bid for long-lived power while cementing a reputation for the ages.
Matt Stewart blends vibrant prose, unforgettable characters, and a multi-layered plot based on the extremes of the historical French Revolution for a relentlessly entertaining debut novel. Viva la révolution!
Praise for The French Revolution
Selected as a Best Book of 2010 by the San Francisco Chronicle
"Stewart’s zany debut cleverly reimagines the central events of the French Revolution in a thrilling novel that explores the meaning of success and the unlikely bonds that unite a family . . . Deep-cutting and full of cartoonish surprises, Stewart’s hilariously bawdy satire casts fresh light in a dark corner of the past while portraying a family whose members have somehow survived history." Booklist
"Stewart writes the sort of sentences that punch holes in a 140-character ceiling and sail out corkscrewing across the bay. From its first pages, which describe the laborious morning ritual of Esmeralda Van Twinkleaa persnickety, ravenous and extremely large cashier in a copy shopthe novel fondly recalls John Kennedy Toole's 1980 classic A Confederacy of Dunces. Stewart's book shares many of its best qualities with Toole's picaresque comedy: Both are deeply satirical and affectionate portraits of a city in all its messy, multiethnic splendor, seen through queasy glimpses over the fleshy shoulders of its obese, big-mouthed protagonist." San Francisco Chronicle
"Best of all, Stewart's language sparkles, sometimes riffing like Bob Dylan, always moving the narrative forward....easy entertainment in book form." Kirkus
"[A] whimsical debut." Publishers Weekly
"So good that I wanted to be where I was going so I could just read it." Examiner.com
An excellent achievement in storytelling and a unique perspective on family drama. Matt Stewart serves up a delicious dark humor that had me laughing out loud. The French Revolution is a great novel that will stay in your head for years, like a soft cut to the jugular from a sharp guillotine.” Tony DuShane, author of Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk
A wildly imaginative novel of family and out-sized dreams. A book that embraces San Francisco's contradictionsand then some. The French Revolution is over-the-top and I for one am grateful.” Peter Orner, author of Esther Stories and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
"Matt Stewart is a brilliant storyteller. He crafts a character like nobody else. The French Revolution had me engrossed for hours." Meredith Norton, author of Lopsided
Praise for the first ever Twitter-Released Novel, The French Revolution
"A pioneer." CNN
"Matt's a great writer." Bookslut
"Matt Stewart wants to revolutionize literature." CNN
"With a main character named Esmerelda Van Twinkle, you’d think Matt Stewart wouldn’t have much trouble attracting attention to his new novel, The French Revolution.” Wall Street Journal
More than 150 writers from 40 events will gather in New York City for PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 28 – May 4, 2014.
For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org