Wakefield

Wakefield

2.0 3
by Andrei Codrescu
     
 

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The novel begins when Wakefield, an "inspirational speaker" and architecture enthusiast, is visited by the Devil, who tells him his time is up. Not yet ready, Wakefield strikes a bargain with Satan and sets off on a cross-country journey to understand his life and times and find his "authentic" self. It's Wakefield's continuing exploration of architecture---and… See more details below

Overview


The novel begins when Wakefield, an "inspirational speaker" and architecture enthusiast, is visited by the Devil, who tells him his time is up. Not yet ready, Wakefield strikes a bargain with Satan and sets off on a cross-country journey to understand his life and times and find his "authentic" self. It's Wakefield's continuing exploration of architecture---and our national obsession with restoration of our cities, of our buildings, of our bodies, of life itself---that drives him to question what is inside and what is outside reality. In the end, in an attempt to "restore" his own world, Wakefield decides he must remake it in a shocking act.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Like many modern heroes, the titular protagonist of Codrescu's latest novel knows neither what he wants nor where he's going. So when the devil appears, Wakefield, a well-read motivational speaker, does what any good literary character would do: he makes a deal to extend his life, and then tries to find himself. On a cross-country lecture circuit through Clintonian America, Wakefield observes ethnic wars, new Internet money and shiny coffeehouse chains, while conversing with day-trading slackers, doom-spouting art collectors and lesbian supermodels. But the "authentic life" Wakefield is seeking eludes him. The road trip becomes increasingly surreal, an Epcot Center display of clashing cultures and globalism gone awry. The devil has spared his life, but Wakefield may as well already be a ghost-like the devil, he stands apart, gamely philosophizing on subjects like the size of airplane seats: "The simultaneous machinery of gluttony and greed works to sacrifice the individual to corporate ego, imprisoning the body in a cell of fat, and every inch stolen from the body's ease ends up in corporate space." He initiates intimate affairs with women who demand nothing from him and continues to roam with no accountability or impact. Meanwhile, the novel grows slack as its humorous scenes and colorful characters become convenient springboards for Wakefield's speechifying. While Codrescu raises big questions and presents interesting and often deeply comic modern insights, this scattered novel feels more like an excuse for the author's NPR-like essays on contemporary existence than a cohesive narrative. Agent, Jonathan Lazear. (May) Forecast: Praise from Tom Robbins and Robert Olen Butler should capture the attention of the younger fans of the former and the slightly more seasoned admirers of the latter. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Ostensibly a Faustian fable in which a weary Satan grants respite to free-form motivational speaker Wakefield so that he can travel the country in search of a so-called "authentic life," this tale serves as the merest pretense for Codrescu's droll observations on art, architecture, spirituality, Bosnia, WTO riots, Microsoft, and American culture in the 1990s. The freewheeling romp that results feels like postmodern pundit Jean Baudrillard by way of Tom Robbins: not much of a story but plenty of interesting digressions. An accomplished reader of edgy fiction, Jeff Woodman shows he has the cerebral chops and verbal dexterity to keep pace with Codrescu's erudition and relentless cleverness. Whether most listeners will be able to keep up is less certain. For larger libraries and NPR devotees.-David Wright, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Wakefield, a travel writer and motivational speaker, is having a regular day when the Devil, horns and all, knocks at his door and tells him his time is up. After he pleads to avoid the afterlife, the two strike a Faustian deal. He has one year to find the true meaning of life. And so the story continues with a grand tour of the United States as Wakefield moves from speaking job to speaking job, pondering life's purpose. This late-1990s U.S. is populated by angry artists, a voodoo priestess who reads fortunes, travel agents who specialize in paranormal vacations, and a lumber tycoon preparing for the next war against the country. Wakefield's relationship with his daughter and major events like the bombing of Sarajevo challenge his sense of humanity with a dark, wry humor, reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut's. But the Devil really makes the book. Amid taunting his target and his unique perspective on humanity, this Devil-the original one-faces a mid-life crisis. With younger devils holding corporate-style seminars for maximizing the production of souls, he feels a little out of date and even lacks confidence in some of his dealings with Wakefield. Despite the offhand humor, or perhaps because of it, this is a novel about life's challenges and ways to overcome them. As both characters struggle for the right path, it's obvious how truly human they are.-Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A rootless writer-lecturer cuts a deal with the Devil in this latest comic romp from the prolific poet, essayist, NPR commentator, and novelist (Casanova in Bohemia, 2002, etc.). The eponymous Wakefield (namesake of the Hawthorne character who abandons his life for 20 years before impulsively reentering it) persuades Satan to give him extra time to discover his "authentic life" (i.e., vocation, purpose, allegiance). For Wakefield is an intellectual drifter: an aficionado of architecture's utilitarian element (a self-proclaimed "cartographer of lost space"), abused for his political indifference by his fiery Romanian ex-wife Marianna, passively debating morality vs. Epicureanism with his Russian emigre cabdriver buddy Zamyatin. The plot-which is really only a vehicle for Codrescu's riffs on trendy topics du jour (e.g., conspicuous consumption, American insularity, sexual gameswomanship, New Age cliches)-is rather reminiscent of its author's nonfiction travelogue Road Scholar (1993). As Satan (amusingly imagined as an overburdened, caustic CEO) keeps metamorphosing and dropping by to monitor his prey, Wakefield journeys to the northern midwestern town of Typical, to speak on "Money and Poetry" to employees of an Orwellian software conglomerate ("The Company"); ruffles left-wing feathers at the World Art Museum in the "Wintry City" (manifestly Chicago); espouses political incorrectness throughout southwestern and southern California venues; then returns home, as uncommitted to ideologies and -isms as ever, to restructure his contract with The Infernal One. Wakefield isn't much of a novel, but it's populated with strong-willed yet sexually compliant women, graced by droll deadpan observationson miscellaneous American madnesses, and-in its protagonist's growing conviction that "there is something disappearing from the world, something composed of many instances of tradition and skill"-a serious note of knowing lamentation for imperiled cultures everywhere. Not Codrescu's best, but nevertheless one of his wisest, most engaging books. Agent: Jonathon Lazear/Lazear Agency
New York Times Book Review
"One of our most prodigiously talented and magical writers, [Crodescu] manages to be brilliant and insightful, tough and seductive about American culture."
New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565118607
Publisher:
HighBridge Company
Publication date:
05/28/2004
Edition description:
Unabridged, 5 cassettes
Pages:
600
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 2.74(h) x 6.28(d)

Meet the Author


A poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, ANDREI CODRESCU is the MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English at Louisiana State University and the editor of the literary journal Exquisite Corpse.

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