Cover image for Wakefield
Title:
Wakefield
Author:
Codrescu, Andrei, 1946-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill, N.C. : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004.
Physical Description:
288 pages ; 23 cm
Language:
English
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.9 15.0 86768.
ISBN:
9781565123724
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

Romanian-born poet and essayist Andrei Codrescu, who also utilizes the pen names Betty Laredo and Maria Parfeni, emigrated to the United States in 1966. Codrescu earned a B.A. at the University of Bucharest, and has taught at numerous academic institutions including Johns Hopkins, the University of Baltimore, and Louisiana State University.

Codrescu worked for National Public Radio as a commentator and has been featured on ABC News' Nightline. Some of Codrescu's short stories and novels include his first poetry collection, License to Carry a Gun and a memoir entitled In America's Shoe.

Throughout the years, Codrescu has been awarded many honors including the Big Table Poetry Award, General Electric Foundation Poetry Prize, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships for poetry, editing, and radio.

His titles include The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess, The Poetry Lesson, and Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

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. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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 in demand. Then one day the Devil shows up, walks right into Wakefield's tasteful living room, and says, Time's up.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, models, venture capitalists, art collectors, rainforest protectors, and S and M strippers. Excerpted from Wakefield by Andrei Codrescu All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.