The Buzzing

"{T}he twisty plot (including a surprising turn at the end) combined with Knipfel's sharp wit and dark vision add much satirical sparkle to this dystopian romp."

-Publisher's Weekly

"Using a pulp sensibility to marry zany paranoia and bitter social commentary thus has become Knipfel’s home territory. But in Unplugging Philco, Knipfel brings the heady stew of his first two novels to a full boil and comes up with a dystopian satire that is both his funniest and saddest book yet."

-Las Vegas Weekly

"{You} don't really read Knipfel for laughs. You read him for the spell under which his prose can place you. At this, he has only gotten better with time. His meticulous renderings of maddening office chat, unhappy home life, quietly dangerous streets, and churning insecurities demand attention and, eventually, uneasy empathy. If there's a paranoid bone in your body, Knipfel will tickle it, and you may find yourself wondering if your MetroCard and cell phone-and even the way you react to people on the street-aren't evidence of a Horribleness that has actually happened to you."

-Village Voice


Unplugging Philco

Simon & Schuster, 2007

"Riffing mordantly on 1984, post-9/11 propaganda, mindless consumerism, and techno-addiction, Knipfel gleefully salts Wally’s breakneck adventures with caustically naughty acronyms and wistful romance. As he imagines an unplugged underworld and an all-seeing, all-powerful corporate empire, Knipfel forges a grimly funny condemnation of digital tyranny and the sacrifice of rights and privacy for the pipe dreams called convenience and security.




In a dystopian, surveillance mad New York of the not-too-distant future, a nebbish, midlevel insurance industry operative gets fed up and clumsily undertakes an attempt to erase himself from the Grid. This brings him in contact with an underground revolutionary group of like-minded Unpluggers.




Morgan first suggested this idea  to me back in 1998, after I wrote a newspaper story about a report which discovered that on a daily basis, the average New Yorker just going about his or her business would be filmed about 20  times a day. Being a little psychotic about personal privacy, the idea mortified me. I had no idea what was to come.


 Anyway, she suggested a story about someone who tried to make himself essentially invisible. I began working on it back then, but made two mistakes. First, even though the book was meant to be a comedy, my own anger got in the way and it all came off very dull and pedantic and heavy handed. The other mistake was employing actual surveillance technologies in use at the time. Even as I wrote that early draft, i was following the news and saw that new technologies were coming out all the time that lapped what I was doing two or three times. The fucking book was outdated even before I finished writing it. So I set it aside.


 well, then along came the World Trade Center attacks and the whole damn country went mad, turning into a cartoon version of what I’d  been writing a few years earlier. So I went back to the idea and started over.


 Here’s the funny thing, though. Morgan (again), bless her, had the idea i could avoid being outdated technology-wise if I simply made up outlandish devices (like HappyCams and phone implants and SUCKIE cards). It seemed to be just the trick. But I’ll be damned if as I was writing, the ridiculous things I was making up suddenly began appearing on the market. When I started writing, for instance, there were no cell phone video cameras, and they certainly played no role in the news. The Japanese began work on phone implants, drones became commonplace, localized EMP grenades and bazookas are a feared terrorist weapon, and what are called VidLogs in the book are being used by the US military. Now, a few years later pretty much everything I made up for the book has become a reality. This is the curse of being ten minutes ahead of your time. In the end, you just look like an idiot.


The soundtrack for this one was Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach. Given the world I was trying to put on the page, I wanted something cold and mechanical and repetitive, so what could be better?







Copyright 2015