Novelist, poet, professor, and NPR commentator Codrescu (Hail Babylon!, 1998, etc.) brings his eclectic interests and unique slant to good, evil, and much, much more in this millennial collection of his latest essays.
Using Armageddon as a launching pad, Codrescu first puts "the ubiquitous devil of our secular culture" under a microscope, and he breaks down humanity's doomsday believers, from "paramilitary paranoids" to "optimistic New Agers." The essays that follow are loosely organized around the theme of evil, and as Codrescu comments on American, immigrant, and emigrant life, he uncovers its darker sides, toughing on the ills of social amnesia, hypocrisy, and government corruption. Romanian-born and now a New Orleans resident, Codrescu takes his readers from the heat of the French Quarter to the icy streets of Transylvania, from Kosovo to Chicago, and to cyberspace and back. His outlook is that of a cautious and comical pessimist, and he argues, "Everybody in the world feels sick and it's only Prozac, work, Bill Gates, and the media that keep us from realizing it." His tone, however, is not portentous or depressing but rather is accented with his distinctive brand of sarcasm and softened by his memories of childhood. Many of the essay topics fall in a gray area between highbrow academia and popular culture. Thus, Elvis, Carl Jung, The Unabomber, Allen Ginsberg, the Pied Piper, and Dante are among the men, sinister and otherwise, making appearances within his text. Yet too often Codrescu exercises a license to drift into murky waters. An essay on autobiography declares, "The memoir is a skeumorph," while in a more postmodern piece he insists, "Virtuality is television squared."
Fans will delight in another window into Codrescu's shrewd and quirky mind - his confession of AOL addiction, his thoughts on being a grandfather, and his strange yet convincing argument "Against Synchronicity." Others, though, may become lost in the many obscurities.