OTHER BOOKS, OTHER REVIEWS & SOME SHAMELESS BLURBING
Whatever Gets You Through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments by Andrei Codrescu. Princeton University Press, 2011. 179 pages. $22.95
reviewed by Kenneth Warren
“Language is not merely a cognitive operation of our brains; it is a source of sacralization that arises in order to defer mimetic violence. To represent by means of a sign is to cut off from worldly action. The supernatural quality of what is designated by the sign does not arise from the formal reality of the sign’s existence in a different world from that of things; it is rather this formal difference that arises from the human community’s "absolute" need of putting the desired object beyond the reach of its potentially contentious members.”
Eric Gans, “Body and Soul”
“And, when I became a teacher I still felt a remarkable kinship with Scheherazade because I think our jobs are pretty much the same. If I have a great story, my students will listen. If I have a bad day, it means my story wasn’t good enough. Scheherazade is a great role model for teachers because her very life depends on story—and she can’t afford to have bad day.”
Kathy H. Zimbaldi, “Deconstructing the Stereotype: Scheherazade’s Feminist Voice”
Andrei Codrescu’s Whatever Gets You Through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments is, in its entanglement with the creative and traumatic core of the Arabian Nights, an irresistible treasure of artistic vision, burnished narrative, fancy footnote, and trickster scholarship. Codrescu’s provocative intervention on the Nights is written flawlessly through an ear that channels the futuristic graces of Sheherezade, the story-telling savior of the virgins of Baghdad, who volunteers to marry the murderous King Shayar, a mad cuckold sworn to wed a virgin each night and have her strangled in the morning. Accompanying Codrescu’s surge into Baghdad is a wildly luscious sense of belonging to the viral force field of myth as well as to the hero archetype that always lives through narrative. Codrescu’s adventure into the Nights is, indeed, that of the psycho-energetic hero who encounters the goddess, rides her lubed serpent, snatches mana from her messianic kundalini, and joins her narrative powers to his own. Ultimately, something dazzling must give and does give from Sheherezade in order that Codrescu might live through the Nights.
Codrescu’s mission is to liberate the magical potency of Sheherezade’s name through the process of invocation. “We are bound to tell her story,” declares Codrescu, “no matter what our postmodern wishes or rebellious inclinations might tell us: simply pronouncing her name invokes her” (1). In Codrescu’s story-telling, the archetypal agency directing the creative mêlée of the Nights is explicitly yoked to infra-red instincts and sensational stories written across carnage. Devoted to “a peculiar literary Genius … who inverts the conventional order of narrative, the power relations between the sexes, sexuality itself, and memory” (1), Codrescu faces down the brutal places of heartbreak in the Nights. After Sheherezade’s name emerges as an explosively formed projectile aimed at the Phallus, the literal is left on the killing floor of Abrahamic horror. The Kingdom of pure historic existence explodes into tricky epiphanies. In Codrescu’s battle for hearts and minds filled with crazy inspiration imputed to Allah, “Sheherezade is an IED” (91).
Culture is a demolition derby, as Codrescu suggests in a footnote on “the Orient”:
The “Orient” was a suspect moniker long before E. Said proceeded to demolish “orientalism” as a colonial excuse that justified European conquest using the huge aggregation of kitsch that had grown around the “mysterious Orient” (90).
Against Arabic identity claims to Sheherezade, Codrescu asserts a cosmopolitan creativity that bends us into a feeling that we all belong to a life stream evolved out of mythos. Because Sheherezade becomes through Codrescu’s narrative a site in the struggle for global consciousness, it is impossible, as he well knows, to read his bold moves on Bagdhad and the legacy of the Nights without recalling Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), a book of sweeping objections to representations of Eastern cultures by Western agents. For Codrescu, however, “the Orient and Occident are enmeshed in ways that cannot be separated.” (90). In order to constellate “the topography of our global minds” (90, he cites Jorge Luis Borges, who posed this rhetorical question in the lecture “A Thousand and One Nights:”
What are the East and West? If you ask me, I don’t know. We must settle for approximations. (42-3)
As for “approximations,” a blurb flashes on the back Seven Nights (1984) that “Borges is a central fact of Western Culture.”
So in the context of a near magical transmission initially defined by Arab, Indian, and Persian oral cultures and that by way of written text now occupies a global domain of authorized fantasies, the co-dependent and fated relationship between Sheherezade and three other translators of the Nights—Antoine Galland, Richard Burton, and Husain Haddawy—pushes Codrescu to confront “the ‘political’ corrections of the late 20th century” (3). Thus Codrescu’s bawdy bead on the Nights draws deeply from the priapic well of 19th century explorer, linguist, and scholar Richard Burton, whose unexpurgated translation The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885-86) established the centrality of Sheherezade to the coherence of the tales. Burton’s remark that “the Nights are nothing without the nights,” quoted by Jack Zipes in When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition (2007) makes clear Codrescu’s precedent for serving his imagination to Sheherezade. As Zipes explains, “the Sheherezade framework is essential for the collection, and Sheherezade sets the tone for the employment of the narratives, even though they were probably created by different authors: It is she who provides the raison d’être for the tales, the driving impulse, and without comprehending why she was “invented,” the Nights cannot be understood” (59).
While the frame narrative of Sheherezade begins with kingship, an archetypal domain, which reinforces rivalries between fathers and sons amidst the magical field of women (Walker, Barbara, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Mysteries and Secrets, 1983, pp. 501-8), Codrescu cleverly enframes the frame narrative with the issue of technology and embodiment. Poignantly enough, Codrescu’s starting point comes straight from a virtual place of collapsed context and crowd-sourced knowledge. A Wikipedia entry on One Thousand and One Nights, snagged in 2009, marks a technologically “framed” point of entry to the hidden booty within a book that drips balmy insight into anxiety over annihilation. “Framed” by Wikipedia, Codrescu’s view on the Nights stews momentarily between digital and organic dilemmas. Needless to say, in this book, anxiety over annihilation—whether by tyrannical masculinity, genetic engineering, the Wiki, or all of the above—goads a magnificent story-telling impulse that enlarges both Sheherezade and Codrescu from a body of images capable of evoking daimonic possession.
The technological turn from embodiment hazards a withdrawal of “immediate presence” (67), a distancing from human relation in nature, as Robert Romanyshyn suggests in Technology as Symptom & Dream (1987). Such reflections portray a ground of feeling obscured by technological force. All the way through the book, Codrescu expresses a desire to secure the frame story and the metaphor of Sheherezade to the feeling-charged ground of speech, origins, and presences, in other words, that spirit-haunted ground ordinarily absorbed by cults of the Christian logos. Perhaps because the Nights is rooted in oral tradition, Codrescu’s voice, which can be heard over radio on NPR, provides us with the grain of sound that makes the cut, the call, and the response between narrative and footnotes feel so naturally connected to the heat of the real deal. “To lend an ear” (11), as Codrescu suggests, is to turn the written text toward the feminine and the mythology of nature.
For Codrescu the story-telling complex in the Nights is wedged between the id slaves of passion and the superegoic masters of Allah’s law. As queens slip from the control of kings, a racially mounted image of chthonic sexuality suggests the sensational depth charge that emotionally powers the story-telling complex from below. A line muscled from Burton endows Codrescu’s presentation of the Queen’s betrayal of King Shahzaman with a certain sense of overheated animalism:
Lying on the marital carpet, spread shamelessly beneath a “black cook of loathsome aspect and foul with kitchen grime,” was his beautiful young wife, the only visible thing about her a white thigh arched high over the beastly back, and a strand of the string of pearls snaking away from the sweaty bodies. (5)
Her passionate participation in outlaw sex with a “loathsome Moor” turns the kingdom into a crucible of carnage worthy of a footnote that praises Allah. With a playful recognition of the way the enslaved might read the instinctual drives of royalty, Codrescu deadpans the broiling point:
Back at the palace, the slaves also figured it all out, and not a few of them thought secretly that the King was a fool, and that his wife’s affair had been the most reasonable thing since she had doubtlessly required the cook who pleased her by his food to please her with his cock. Now the palace was both without mistress and without cook, a truly sad state of affairs; at least the King was out of town, praise Allah. (5)
With Burton as guide to the cultural complex that animates the anarchic domain of the Nights, Codrescu accentuates the sense that the black slave is the master of chthonic sexuality. In the alchemical color-play evoked from the body of images, the black slave is the possessor of the embodied nigredo that dispossesses kings of queens. Not surprisingly, King Sharyar’s wife succumbs to Moorish temptation, too.
King Sharyar’s young wife called cheerfully to the lush tree in the garden, and a naked Moor of great physical dimensions leapt down from it and embraced her like a tall black exclamation point around the milky white Queen wrapped herself like parentheses. (8)
With King Sharyar’s discovery of his Queen’s betrayal, the butchery in the kingdom multiplies further.
Sharyar leapt from his hiding place and killed his wife and her lover himself with swift strokes of his scimitar. He, too, like his brother, cut the bodies into pieces—not just four each, but eight pieces each, because, as he was the greater King, his fury was so much greater. He then seized the ten white Mamelukes, five of whom were men, and personally tied them to the tails of horses he whipped until they took off in all directions, rending the guilty flesh. He then danced like a madman among the hunks of bleeding meat, slashing at it with dagger and scimitar. He ordered a hundred virgins slaughtered secretly that night. (10)
Like the knots of Jacques Lacan that slip from sense into language, “hunks of bleeding meat” punctuate the discourse of desire in Codrescu’s soulful recuperation of the Nights. With the heat turned on by sexual impulse from below, the paternal no takes up Allah’s butcher knife to curb instinctual drives and to bring order to the disorder of the skin. The extraverted letter of the law is written into flesh at the bleeding edge of the soul’s awakening to story. “What is known,” Codrescu writes in a footnote, “is that as the God of Abraham becomes more irritable, the number of punishments multiplies, as evidenced by many holy texts and present day humans who are as full of scars as trees chewed by beavers” (54).
King Sharyar’s meat grinding metonymy separates parts from wholes. On the cusp of marrying King Sharyar, Sherherezade listens to her father Vizir tell “the tale of the Ox, the Ass, the Rooster, the Merchant, and the Wife” (53). In the process, Codrescu presents Sheherezade’s theory on “the language of animals:”
Removing the universal language from the human brain was the First Circumcision. There had been others before the one currently decreed by Sharyar, some performed by Allah himself, like the circumcision of the Universal Tongue, others performed by men interpreting the Prophet’s words or the words of other deities. (55)
But Sheherezade stands corrected by Codrescu whose ingenious footnote suggests the alchemical process of dissolution is now penetrating her illusions:
Sherherezade is wrong in this: the One Language was not removed; it was diluted by the addition of vowels, which, just like water, dissolve everything, but especially understanding. The consonants, particularly the cognates led by labials, had resisted the dissolving action of vowels for a long time, but they were eventually riddled with holes like limestone by water, and the One Language is now just a world of caves with a flimsy lace of consonants still linking them. This is a materialist description of the process; to believers in the desert God it’s just more surgery. (55)
“To cut off the head of patriarchy within us,” write Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson in Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness (1997) “is to cut off the power drives—the injunctions, the rules, false reasonings, false values that separate us from our reality and take our voice away” (159). Aiming for that head, Codrescu is a psychic surgeon whose sleight of hand operates on patriarchal confusion embroiled in Allah’s greatness. As images of primordial masculinity rise up from the sexual combat zone, Codrescu scans for pathological matter, always attentive to the total emotional situation that binds the story-telling complex to mimetic crisis and trauma. Like the murder of the tortoise by Hermes, the secret slaughter of a hundred virgins in the Nights marks the limit of the literal. No identity claims based in history can stop the dematerialization underway. Sheherezade is an inspiratrix of collective hysteria. Her ultimate charge to Codrescu is an alchemical one—to transmute the carnage into a grand refusal to grant the law of dead meat rule over the pan-human imagination. From the battered virgins of Baghdad, Sheherezade gathers the hysterical steam needed to power the story of a resurrection patched through Codrescu’s impeccable ear.
The Posthuman Dada Guide(: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess (Princeton University Press)
A Pleasing Secret History: Andrei Codrescu's Posthuman Dada Guide
Tzara ain't so bizarra, says NPR essayist
By Eli Epstein-Deutsch
THE VILLAGE VOICE
Dada: An absurdist art movement declaring itself against rationality, tradition, and—above all—Dada. Catholic mystic Hugo Ball and poet/impresario Tristan Tzara launched it in Zurich as World War I blazed all around.
Posthuman: A sci-fi term that came of age in the mid-1980s through texts like Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto. It's what we homo sapiens supposedly become when technological enhancements allow us to transcend our biology.
The Posthuman Dada Guide: A hard-edged, rapier-like volume, perfect for sliding into a back pocket of skinny hipster pants or stabbing into the complacent underbelly of bourgeois (or bourgeois-bohemian) society. Authored by NPR commentator and essayist Andrei Codrescu, it offers a headier-than-usual tour of the early-1900s avant-garde, sprinkled with sex appeal for the would-be MySpace-age revolutionary. Jacket blurbs from the likes of Josephine Baker and Aleister Crowley affirm the Guide's period credentials. Meanwhile, the whole thing is a kind of hypertext, composed of cross-referenced "database" entries—so you can't doubt its cyberpunk legitimacy.
The Guide's Web-savvy structure isn't just a gimmick: It aids in the seamless formation of Codrescu's manic associative trains, which reach to the Middle Ages and back, tracing elements from surrealism to gothic vampire cults, Communist revolutions to Christian carnivals, artists' love for Peggy Guggenheim to differences between American and European witch hunts. This book might've vied with Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces for the subtitle A Secret History of the Twentieth Century.
As art theory, the Guide could even be preferable to a college seminar on modernism: I'd take its page-long analysis of why poor people make modernist artwork and rich people buy it over Clement Greenberg's classic essay "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" any day. Codrescu takes potshots at academics' sacred cows, such as the pessimistic notion that "Dadaism" is obsolete, a corpse to be dissected. He insists it's been alive and well, and he wants to keep it that way.
He also places Dada on a broader historical stage than it usually receives, mingling it with world politics. Hence the book's main framing device: a hypothetical chess game played by Tristan Tzara, the soul of Dada, and Lenin, who apparently gets to represent the Posthuman. It's a tantalizing conceit. In 1916, Lenin plotted revolution just down the road in Zurich from where Tzara (a future fair-weather Stalinist) was helping invent Dada performance at the Cabaret Voltaire. The two men never met, but think if they had! Here, their imagined rivalry dramatizes the struggle Codrescu views as central to the last 100-odd years of Western civilization—between "mindless, repetitious" mechanization on the one hand and "drunken," "anarchic" spontaneity on the other.
Of course, Tzara and Lenin were both fighting against the tyranny of traditional elites. Yes, Lenin liked mechanization and believed in rationality. The Dadaists' contempt for both of these things, on the other hand, was largely directed at the bourgeois-capitalist war machine; they were hardly anti-socialist. Meanwhile, the Italian Futurist avant-garde—Dada's major contemporary, which barely gets a paragraph from Codrescu—idolized the war machines while still hating rationality, the bourgeoisie, and the Leftists. In other words, Codrescu's categories don't always divide up as neatly as he suggests. In fact, sleight of hand may be involved in some of his key arguments. Nevertheless, he's such an entertaining conjurer that you often just want to let him get away with it.
The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess
review by Susan Larson
THE NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE
Professional provocateur Andrei Codrescu's latest work is a guidebook to a strange new era
Even for professional provocateur Andrei Codrescu, he of the playful intelligence and sardonic wit, this new book, "The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara & Lenin Play Chess," (Princeton University Press, $16.95), is quite something.
It's out there -- a chronicle of an imagined chess game between V.I. Lenin and Tristan Tzara, the founder of Dada, set in the cafe culture of Zurich, Switzerland, in 1916, amid the ferment of bohemianism and revolution. It's a scholarly work, with extensive footnotes; it's a work of imagination; it's a guidebook to a strange new era. It's a call to remember humanity in a post-human time, and an incitement. To read it is to light a mental fuse.
Creating the character of Tristan Tzara was easy for Codrescu; he is devoted to the poet's work and named one of his sons after him. "The name Tristan Tzara was one of those we whispered around when I was 16 years old," Codrescu said, speaking by phone from Louisiana State University, where he is the MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature. This is his last semester before he retires after a long teaching career.
"When I started to write poetry, we knew in Romania that there were these forbidden poets who packed a dynamic charge; the other was Lucien Blaga." Codrescu's eldest son is named Lucien.
"Just the sound of their names caused a frisson of revolt or rebellion," Codrescu said. "Later, when I left Romania, I started reading him in French and learned that he wasn't just an avant garde poet but the founder of an art movement that had profound influence on a lot of artists and writers."
Lenin was somewhat more difficult. "I had to recover Tzara and bring him to rightful dimensions, but in the case of Lenin, it was the opposite," Codrescu said.
"He was bigger than life, drummed into our heads since I was a child. So I had to bring him down to some human dimension. So I read quite a few books, read Solzhenitsyn's book on Lenin, read Trotsky on Lenin. There's even a film of Lenin speaking on the Internet. I tried to look at as much physical evidence as there was. He turned out to be a perfect example of an ideologue obsessed with revolution and the logical resolution of history."
Part of the charm of Codrescu's book is the lively milieu.
"Europe was at war, Zurich was neutral and it served many purposes," he said. "All the refugees of Europe came there to get away from war -- artists and spies and revolutionaries, every kind of war-tossed riffraff. Tzara and Lenin were there. It was the city of Carl Jung. Einstein was there. There was this incredible concentration of superheated brains in a state of agitation in a somewhat peaceful bourgeois Swiss town. Even if they didn't know each other, it was enough that they passed each other on the street.
"They invented a movement in the middle of a work crisis. There was no economy to speak of, they were all poor artists, but every night they made art, had a cabaret. They had fun. It was a really good time for a joyous explosion of 'I don't really care about economies, I care about my soul.'¤"
The book was inspired by a meeting with a Princeton University Press editor at the Frankfurt Book Fair. "We had a 15-minute conversation, and that was it," Codrescu said. "Now I'm writing another one, '1001 Nights, Scheherezade's Bodies, Notes on Narration and Extinction.'¤"
And yes, Codrescu plays chess: "We have in Romania, two sports -- soccer and chess, and the guys who play soccer were the brutes and they beat us up. Chess, oddly enough, was an obsession in the state that Lenin sets up later. Chess was being taught at all levels in the schools."
Dada continues to inspire Codrescu to this day. "It never allowed itself to be defined like other avant garde movements," he said. "Dada insisted on the raw energy of unconsciousness and freedom. And it's stayed attractive to young people. Neodadas keep being reborn, and some are very influential. We do this a lot, we try to confine things to a certain historical time and keep them safely there. Then they come out of the box and we realize how fierce and savage they are. You can't do without that if you're an artist."
"The Posthuman Dada Guide" is new even for Codrescu, with its hybrid form of guide, meditation, history, invention. The author of numerous collections of poetry, autobiography, essays ("New Orleans, Mon Amour" collects 20 years of writing just about New Orleans), and several novels, he is always at work, seemingly at play.
What is he going to do in retirement? "Whittle. I'm going to start to whittle," he said, deadpan. "Maybe grow grapes there up at my place on the border of Arkansas and Missouri on the Buffalo River. It's a wilderness. But I still have my apartment in New Orleans and I mean to spend at least two or three months a year there. And the rest of the time I'll read and write in these mountains."
The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess
review by Carly Berwick
LOS ANGELES TIMES
The job is gone, the 401(k) is gutted, college tuition is due, and "Grey's Anatomy" is a shadow of its former self. Can't decide whether to cry or laugh? Laugh at absurdity, laugh at hardship, laugh at poverty, says Andrei Codrescu in his maddening, enlightening, self-contradictory, highly amusing new book, "The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara & Lenin Play Chess." It's what dada -- the manic, prankish art-cult of wartime and depression -- advises.
Codrescu, the NPR commentator and author, has rolled into one slim guide a postmodern self-help manual, a history lesson, a love letter to dissident poets, a hard jab at communism and a veiled autobiography. Dada was the name given to the collection of unholy noises, obscene poems and Picasso etchings displayed in Zurich's Cabaret Voltaire in1916 by a motley assembly of war refugees, among them Frenchpoet Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball and his wife, Emmy Hennings. Marcel Duchamp, with his rotated urinal, became the most famous Dadaist, although he eventually renounced everything except chess -- a very Dada gesture itself.
"One of our most prodigiously talented and magical writers." Bruce Shlain, New York Times Book Review
"With humor and grace, wisdom and tenderness, Codrescu transforms the commonplace into the miraculous. His work is cause for celebration." Kay Boyle
This transplanted Transylvanian with the bateau-mouche moustache always manages (in his consideration of All Things) to create a craving for the subversive-- something that is much needed in these days of 'friendly fascism.' Lawrence Ferlinghetti
"Codrescu’s voice is assured, funny as a jazz funeral and sharp as ammonia, nailing more virtuoso turns than a Formula One driver. His prose is so deadpan it goes through irony and comes out in some undiscovered place on the other side." Diane Roberts in St. Petersburg Times
"An extraordinary work of fiction...The Blood Countess is hypnotic and lyrical, with both the concentrated poetic power of the great fairy tales and the playful expansiveness of postmodern fiction."
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
"Mr. Codrescu is the sort of writer who feels obliged to satirize and interplay with reality and not just catalogue impressions...it's a measure of talent..." Francis X. Clines, The New York Times Book Review
"Codrescu is a wordsmith par excellence...a modern day DeTocqueville... a wry and whimsical, pungently idiosyncratic documentary."
Joe Leydon, The Los Angeles Times
"Codrescu's distinctive perspective makes the trip worth taking." Variety
"Funny, exceptionally moving search for Whitman's America." The Village Voice
"Codrescu is among the most astute contemporary observers of what William Carlos Williams called 'the American grain,' while simultaneously joining playwright Eugene Ionesco as one of Romania's great rememberers of dictatorial things past." Houston Chronicle
"Mr. Codrescu, with the deadpan burlesque of a jaded outsider, rightfully assumes his place among the keener chroniclers of the American spirit, 1990s style. On film as on the radio, his work is defined by the tensions at play between humor and sentiment, between one-liners and aphorism, and between immigrant optimism and dissident cynicism." The New York Times
"Codrescu, an urbanite Walter Benjamin with a sense of humor, remains a poet, a person who works ‘only at recognizing the awesomeness of the universe, which is a job, too’."
The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
ON WAKEFIELD, a novel:
WAKEFIELD zig-zags on wheels of comic brilliance, totally flattening a lot of useless architecture -- physical and psychological -- along the way. -- Tom Robbins
Codrescu has written a tour de force comedy in which he proves--as did Dante and Milton and Goethe and Mark Twain before him--that Beezlebub is literature's best character. He also confirms the internationally agreed-upon notion that America is the devil's ripest ground. I laughed out loud. -- Mary Karr
A brilliantly inventive cathedral of a book. No one--and I mean no one--is more deeply in touch with the zeitgeist of this obsessive, lunatic age than Andrei Codrescu. In our culture, in our literature, he is essential. -- Robert Olen Butler
WAKEFIELD is a hilarious - and yet grievously sobering - road-trip told by a maniac and signifying everything. Codrescu made me laugh over and over again, while brilliantly excavating and revealing the dark and absurd underbelly of our crazy global landscape. -- Ariel Dorfman
Perverse, romantic, profound, hilarious, cynical, moving, always surprising, and gorgeously written, "Wakefield" is hell-bent comic poetry, and the best kind of fun: the sort that forever changes the way you look at the world, from picayune details to the meaning of life. -- Elizabeth McCracken
A dazzling book ... the reader emerges at the end of the journey with laughter in his heart and a revitalized sense of the astonishing mysteries of everyday life in the here and now. -- Jonathan Raban
WAKEFIELD plucks you from the circumstances of everyday life and takes you on an exhilarating excursion through time and space, through memory and imagination, and he introduces you to unforgettable characters obsessed with singular follies. -- Eric Kraft
Andrei Codrescu's WAKEFIELD is unremittingly coruscating and immensely subversive, in short, a brilliant comic novel that will give you a fresh look at the homeland. -- Jim Harrison
Andrei Codrescu has joined classical writers Tirso, Goethe, Hawthorne, and Borges as the contemporary master of devil covenants. Like Sinclair Lewis before him, his mainstreet reveals a wildly corrupt, entertaining, loony Odysseus on his picaresque jaunt through popular world culture. Most poignant and darkly compelling in Wakefield is his admixture of madness, cunning, and the ultimate metaphysical sorrow of his journey, worth it, for what alternative exists in a world of diabolical tricksters? Yet life prevails over death, over any pact, in this laughing encyclopedia of Wakefield's wanderings. -- Willis Barnstone