Wakefield

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Overview


What is the connection between breast enlargement and building renovation, yoga retreats and gourmet restaurants, cell phones and globalization? Wakefield, both the title of Andrei Codrescu's hilariously absurd and brilliantly observed novel and the name of its alienated hero, examines these and other perplexities of the late twentieth century.

Picture Wakefield: He's divorced, lives alone in a comfortable, book-filled apartment in a sophisticated city. A motivational speaker, ...

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Overview


What is the connection between breast enlargement and building renovation, yoga retreats and gourmet restaurants, cell phones and globalization? Wakefield, both the title of Andrei Codrescu's hilariously absurd and brilliantly observed novel and the name of its alienated hero, examines these and other perplexities of the late twentieth century.

Picture Wakefield: He's divorced, lives alone in a comfortable, book-filled apartment in a sophisticated city. A motivational speaker, his talks leave audiences dispirited and anxious. But for this peculiar talent, he's nicely paid by corporate America, and he's in demand. Then one day the Devil shows up, walks right into Wakefield's tasteful living room, and says, "Time's up."

Just as literary Fausts have done for centuries, Wakefield makes a bargain with Satan, who as it turns out, is having his own existential crisis due to bureaucratic headaches and younger upstart demons in the afterworld. The Devil gives Wakefield a year to find an authentic life—or else it's curtains. So Wakefield travels across the country meeting New Age gurus, billionaire techno-geeks, global pioneers, gambling addicts and models who look like heroin addicts, venture capitalists, art collectors, rainforest protectors, and S and M strippers.

Andrei Codrescu brings his unique vision to the American character: our desire to change, renovate, and improve both our inner and outer worlds; to remodel not only our buildings but our bodies and minds.

Wakefield is an inspired novel—part metaphysical mystery, part travel adventure, part architectural romp—by turns funny and deadly serious.

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Editorial Reviews

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
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565123724
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 4/21/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.76 (h) x 1.08 (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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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2004

    STELLAR READING OF THIS SATIRE

    'Get a life!' That's an oft used phrase, and precisely what the Devil orders motivational speaker Wakefield to do. Actually, Wakefield has no choice - this isn't an order, it's an ultimatum. 'Time's up,' says Satan, so find yourself a real life or sign off on living. Little choice here, so Wakefield goes in an often hilarious trek across the country trying to make contact with who he's supposed to be and where he's supposed to be. He has a year in which to accomplish this (remember what happens to those who make bargains with the devil). Along the way he runs into every kind of outre character, the strangest phenomenons in our contemporary society, and a few women. Of course, Wakefield pontificates along the way. Thanks to the experienced voice and understanding of Jeff Woodman what could have been a farcical reading is instead 10 hours of pleasure. Satire is sometimes difficult to deliver - Woodman's totally in control. - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2010

    I put it down

    Maybe Andrei Codrescu is liked by many people, undoubtedly he is because he has a number of books out.

    However, I only was able to read about half of this book and put it down. I am a person who hardly ever puts a book down, as I will garind my way through most of them, but this one went down.

    Don't know what others see in it, but as for me, forget it.

    Sorry about that.

    J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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