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 From the British master of social satire: another wild, sprawling romp but one that doesn't pack quite the same punch as, say, Everything and More (p. 420). With his usual varied cast of crazies, Nicholson spins a tale involving everything you've always wanted to know about the Volkswagen Beetle. Barry Osgathorpe, once known as Ishmael, a marauding anti-rich terrorist, has settled down to the quiet life in London. He now refuses to drive his Beetle (aka ``Enlightenment''), since he's come to the conclusion that all of his Zen wondering and searching will only lead him back to where he is already. Unfortunately, though, his old nemesis, a former Tory MP, has been released from an insane asylum, and there are VW bugs mysteriously blowing up all around England. Meanwhile, the nemesis's daughter, still the love of Barry's life, lives with the world's foremost Beetle collector. When the collector disappears, the old flame begs Barry to help her find him. Throw in a bunch of skinheads, a neo-Nazi with a fixation on the FÅhrer's favorite car, as well as roaming New Age campers, a prostituting reporter/dominatrix, several average VW aficionados (who repeatedly stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time), and a precocious car-stealing nine-year-old, and you have the typical Nicholson mayhem. Woven into the story are strange but true anecdotes of Bug lore involving everyone from Hitler and Charles Manson to Ted Bundy and Elvis Presley. Even so, the wild plot this time isn't anchored by the customary rock-solid underpinnings: It's little more than an exuberant joyride with a few wonderful characters and caricatures, but without Nicholson's usual vicious, dead-on satire. Still, an entertaining read by a fiendishly clever writer.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-87951-616-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995


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