Prolific poet, memoirist, novelist and National Public Radio commentator Codrescu (Hail Babylon!, The Blood Countess etc.) offers a rousing new collection of essays, full of surprises, treats and provocations. In the title essay, he argues that the devil of medieval Christianity has never ceased acting in the Western psyche's subconscious and that eruptions of the Puritan ethos periodically roil American political and cultural life (examples: Kenneth Starr's ""sexual witch hunt,"" the prohibition against smoking in public places). Several essays and NPR commentaries extend this conceit, as Codrescu criticizes those who demonize others--a category in which he lumps born-again Christian fundamentalists, Islamic extremists, racists, xenophobes and bigots of every stripe. A shrewd observer of American society, Codrescu explores the media's control over mass consciousness, tweaks the stock market's irrationality, examines cyberspace's growing encroachment on everyday reality and laments ""the ideology of capitalism-uber-alles"" that dominates political discourse. This potpourri includes a tour of Chicago, highlighting its labor and radical past, a tribute to Allen Ginsberg and marvelous pieces refracting the history of New Orleans (where Codrescu lives) through the prism of its cafes, bars and cemeteries. He also recounts his four eventful return trips to Romania, which he left in 1965 at age 19. Some of the best pieces include personal, down-to-earth reflections, for example, on the death of a close friend, or nostalgic ruminations. Codrescu is a freethinking spirit, a breath of fresh air, and this playful, quirky collection reflects his hunger for the world. Color photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000 Release date: 04/01/2000 Genre: Nonfiction
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