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Fans of Codrescu from NPR will recognize their friend. It may be a bit clunky as a novel, but rewards the listener with its learned commentary and Eastern Block magical realism. Excellent narration.
Wakefield starts out as a pretty generic contemporary American, a kind of high class schmuck, though blessed with a few interesting friends. And of course there?s the attention he gets from Satan: a philosophical, Bugs Bunny?esque version of the furry angel.
Wakefield makes good money as a post modern inspirational speaker ? a provocative, highly sophisticated, downer. Speaking off the top of his head he?s brilliant, invariably follows up by sleeping with his lovely corporate escort, before jetting off to the next gig.
His speeches range freely through all life?s big concerns, world politics, the various currents of the contemporary American dream, only to finish by pulling the rug out from under his audience. To summarize one of his speeches to a group of corporate titans: wealth destroys the soul, philanthropy artfully applied revives it, and then everything self destructs - phoenix like. That is, art and poetry are all that matter, and even they matter only fleetingly.
When he finally collapses back home he busies himself with reading, learned ramblings and adolescent grousing over his lot in life. He finds his own life burdensome ? ex wife, estranged daughter, even this job he invented for himself. But all is not lost, as he manages to appreciate the interesting things going on around him.
Wakefield the novel resembles Wakefield?s life ? a series of episodes only tentatively linked. Besides tryst after tryst, there are encounters with futuristic technology, an ethnic riot, a gun and art collecting billionaire. I wish Codrescu more fully explored a topic before racing on to the next. At the book?s sudden end I felt like a meatball in a plot of spaghetti. Please, thicker noodles next time.
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