Joe, a failed Electrolux salesman, has an insane business idea to combat the problem of sexual harrassment in the workplace and to finally achieve the financial success that has long eluded him. Surely a product that aims to eliminate sexual harrassment couldn’t be a bad thing? I won’t spoil the surprise but Joe’s ‘brilliant’ idea is rather repellent. ‘Lightning Rods’ chronicles the origins of Joe’s outrageous concept, his process of staff recruitment, his attempts to convince business owners to implement his morally questionable device, and – inevitably – his subsequent success.
‘Lightning Rods’ is a clever satire on corporate America, entrepreneurship and the self-made man. But, as much as I appreciated Helen DeWitt’s skilful characterisation – the narrative voice saturated in sales-speak and self-help hyperbole, I could not like Joe or commit to the story on an emotional level. I found it well-written, witty and engaging to the extent of horrified fascination, but not quite enjoyable.