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by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book Description
Andrei Codrescu satirizes and celebrates the changing shape of America in this hilariously absurd, brilliantly observed novel. When the Devil comes to take him, Wakefield—a motivational speaker and architecture buff—isn't ready. He plies the Dark One with scotch and strikes a bargain: He, Wakefield, will take a year to search for an alternative life. Our tragicomic hero shares a name (and other traits) with the main character of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "Wakefield." he criss-crosses the country, meeting New Age gurus, billionaire techno-geeks, global pioneers, gambling addicts, models, venture capitalists, art collectors, rainforest protesters, SandM strippers, and more. As his own "inner architecture" shifts, he attempts to restore his world through a shocking act that baffles even his jaded Satanic Majesty. Just as Hawthorne created a portrait of the late 19th-century America, Codrescu captures the country in the late 20th. Part architectural thriller, part metaphysical mystery, part travel adventure, Wakefield reveals the compelling perplexities of the modern age.

About the Author
JEFF WOODMAN originated the title role in Tennessee Williams' "'The Notebook of Trigorin"' and won the san Francisco Critics' circle Award for his performance in "'an Ideal Husband"' In addition to numerous Off-Broadway credits, his TV appearances include Law and Order, Sex and the City, and Cosby. His more than 200 audiobook narrations has earned him numerous awards, including a People magazine "'Annual Top Five"' citation and a spot in AudioFile magazine's "'Top Fifty Voices of the Century"'. Andrei Codrescu is a Romanian-born poet, essayist, columnist, novelist, screenwriter, and frequent commentator for National Public Radio. His travel films are shown on public television' his Web journal, Exquisite Corpse, is read by the literati' his books include the bestselling novels The Blood Countess and Messiah. He teaches English at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.



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