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William Latour
The Bargain Shopper
WC Latour, author
“It’s almost cheaper than shoplifting,” raves The Bargain Shopper about his system for deep-discount shopping. Born into the ‘wrong century’, Charles Rochambeau despises technology, computers, and internet shopping. He was cursed with ‘bad timing’ as his father squandered the family fortune on Wall Street. As a scion of the legendary French general who helped Washington defeat the British in The Revolutionary War, he has become a ‘Certified Professional Shopper’ in the service of an aristocratic divorcee, Beatrice Wolcott, whom like Charles, has endured a life of bad luck and tragedies. As Major Domo for her estate in Westchester County, Charles witnesses her close relationship with Ryan Keneally, the longtime family plumber, whose son, Trey reveals several shocking Wolcott family secrets. Charles suspects her friendship with Ryan seems much too close be platonic. Yet, Charles maintains his belief in ‘The American Dream’ and holds his ground as ‘A Soldier of Truth’ despite privation and adversity. He is dedicated to ‘The Madame’ and hopes to rectify the past, so they can both recover their lost dreams and proud family legacies. The Great Pandemic arrives and shuts down most of the shopping malls. God is dead. Like Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces, Charles realizes he is trapped in a corrupt modern world, over-run by duplicities, politics and lies. Has The American Dream become Paradise Lost? Is Charles crazy or has Le Monde simply gone mad? Like Dante’s Inferno, The Bargain Shopper is an unexpurgated account of a Pilgrim’s journey to Hell and back.
This devilish novel of the pandemic era revolves around the “Lilliputian niche” that is the life of Charles Rochambeau, our narrator and presently a “certified professional shopper” for an aristocratic divorcee, Beatrice Wolcott. An avid hater of all things modern, Charles believes he was born in the wrong century, and often mutters a cold “whatever” to the indignities of this one. Claiming ancestry to the 9th-century Roman emperor Charlemagne, Charles prides himself in his lineage, fears the nation he’s in is bound for Hell, offers trenchant commentary on the COVID era (he compares Tucker Carlson’s falsetto laugh to that of “Mozart as depicted by Thomas Hulce in Amadeus”), and spins often-ribald, always pointed and outlandish tall tales of his life, all as he strives to be a professional bargain shopper—who “assimilates the primal instincts of an animal. Like sharks, bottom feeders, or buzzards”—at a time when stores are closed and plastic shopping bags have been banned.

The mode here is Rabelaisian overkill, penned in prose so sharp it cuts. As a loyal employee and friend of Beatrice, Charles often engages in the affairs of her family, though the novel’s energy is in its feverish asides, plunges into hell, “sibilant hind blast”s, Charles’s preening knowledge of literature and history, his cohort’s assessment of the politics of Donald Trump and Andrew Cuomo, and his insistence that, despite being a “confirmed Royalist” and claiming responsibility for the firing of the founder of Old Navy, he sees himself as of the proletariat, as life has pushed him into hardships.

In spite of it all, he still believes “in the existent secular national religion known as The American Dream,” while he prides himself for turning “The Art of Bargain Shopping into Science.” The satire is often wicked and unpredictable, targeting beliefs and figures across the political spectrum, while digging into the dehumanizing complexities of consumer culture. Readers who love a rant will find much to laugh over.

Takeaway: Rabelasian satire of the pandemic age, written with wit and giddy overkill.

Great for fans of: Paul Beatty, Gary Shteyngart's Our Country Friends.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: NA
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A