The second novel by the author of Under the Frog (1994, not reviewed) is a history of Western philosophy disguised as...

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THE THOUGHT GANG

The second novel by the author of Under the Frog (1994, not reviewed) is a history of Western philosophy disguised as hard-boiled crime fiction, which may be the only way to do philosophy these days -- slanted, skewed, and rude. Fischer's hilariously sleazy story is the first-person memoir of Eddie Coffin, a Cambridge philosopher in his 50s who specializes in the Ionians; he's also a self-described ""lush, compulsive gambler, zero, drug-dealer, fraud, disaster, slob"" and embezzler. The last finds him on the lam in France (""Things are more interesting abroad, even dying""), where he hooks up with his failed mugger, an ex-con named Hubert, who wants to learn philosophy. Together, using the insights of the ancients, this unlikely duo become the legendary gang of the title. With each job, they work out another philosophical problem, or illustrate a particular movement -- they want periwigs as Enlightenment philosophes, Nietzsche masks, and, as their fame increases, they hand out T-shirts and buttons with quotations from the Masters. Hubert demonstrates a ""gluttony for erudition"" and pursues his philosophical thievery with the fury of an autodidact. Eventually, the two turn the tables on the cops and torment their pursuers, only to abandon their craft when they reach a theoretical impasse. After the ultimate robbery -- one without them present -- there's no where else to go. Meanwhile, Eddie recites sordid tales from his prelarcenous past: anecdotes of mad and suicidal colleagues, his plagiarism, his professional shenanigans. Fischer's wonderful slang, his neologisms, his backwards speech, and other verbal play recall A Clockwork Orange. He punctuates his funny dialogues with explosions of violence reminiscent of a Tarantino movie. Clever, but not obnoxious like so many young Brit wits, Fischer captures a wild end of the millennium funkiness: He's a boss young writer with great stateside potential.

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0684830795

Page Count: 320

Publisher: New Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995