“A virtue never tested isn’t really a virtue, is it?”
That is the basic premise of Dominic Peloso’s coming-of-age story, “First World Problems in an Age of Terrorism and Ennui.” The protagonist, a young 30-something man named Tyler, is disgruntled with his boring cushy life. He has a well-paying job in Washington D.C., is dating a successful attorney and lives in a comfortable townhome. Overall he is very successful…and very bored. He wants to be a hero. He wants to be leader. He wants to start a revolution and break the monotony of everyday life. He craves excitement in an otherwise mundane world. He fantasizes about being a terrorist and revolting against the machine. He forms a website named “CHOAS,” which is misspelled on purpose, which is basically a how-to book on terrorism. It’s just one more way he can rebel against conformity.
The angst that Tyler reveals throughout the book is very similar to the feelings of discontent in J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” There is a very obvious similarity between the attitudes of the two main characters in these books. I’m fairly certain that fans of Salinger will greatly enjoy this story as well.
Each chapter in “First World Problems” begins with Tyler detailing a new potential terroristic plot. They range from being inconvenient (clogging the post office processing machines) to socially disruptive (shutting down public transit resulting in traffic jams) or aggressive terrorism. He explains how to hide your identity, how to overcome tear gas and how to elude the police. Tyler writes his fantasies and shares them with a co-worker, his girlfriend, and other casual friends but is always dismissed as simply being “crazy.” Tyler is continually frustrated. He wants to be noticed; he wants to feel relevant.
Tyler suddenly finds himself in a surprising situation when the events of 9/11 unfold and he realizes that he could be a suspect in the terrorist activities due to his CHOAS site. He is panicked! What does he do? The ending is quite fascinating as Tyler is faced with his fantasies becoming reality. He is then forced into a situation where he must confront the reality of his life. He visits his hometown and embarks a new journey of self-discovery. Can he re-prioritize his life? Can he rebuild what he has broken? It’s a truly fascinating journey.
“First World Problems” presents a very interesting scenario and it is frightening to consider. What I found the most disturbing is that I am certain that there are plenty of people out there, in the real-world, people that do feel like Tyler. Considering events of the not-so-distant past it is easy to see similarities between Tyler and the mentality of real-world terrorists. I can note similarities between Tyler and James Holmes (the Aurora, CO movie theatre shooter), Adam Lanza (the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter), or the Boston Marathon bombers. It confronts the reality that many people out there may be so disgruntled with their boring everyday lives that they begin to live in and enjoy a fantasy world. In their fantasy world they are strong, intelligent, heroic and important; but as Tyler discovered in “First World Problems,” fantasies don’t always make the best realities.
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