Every so often, a short story collection comes along that changes the game completely. In 2017, it was Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body And Other Parties. I’m pretty confident that Ennis Ćehić’s Sadvertising is next.
It’s a collection of short, sharp stories about modern life, technology, and marketing. They’re drenched in black humour, existential dread, and late-capitalist yearning. I’m endlessly grateful to Penguin Books Australia for sending me a copy for review.
Sadvertising reminded me, at times, of The Speechwriter – hands-down one of my best reads of 2021, another Australian black-satire. It also struck me as I read through the collection that it would be an especially great read for fans of Black Mirror and the Gruen Transfer.
Ćehić draws upon real-life pop culture moments (e.g., Kendall Jenner’s infamous, disastrous Pepsi ad campaign), pervasive technologies (e.g., digital assistants and iPhones), and his own career in the advertising industry. This makes the stories in Sadvertising surreal and subversive, but stop them short of science-fiction – a master stroke that keeps them relatable and provocative.
Some of the stories are seriously short – as in, 1-2 pages. They’re quick to read, but deeply resonant. They linger. I’ve even had dreams about some of them, days after finishing my first (of many) reads.
It’s a great collection, a commendable collection, right up until the very last story (“Meta Ennis Part III”)… which makes Sadvertising fucking brilliant.