In his smashing debut story collection I Dream of Microwaves, Imad Rahman navigates the world of marginal actors looking for work--and love--in quirky, unseemly venues. Following the travails of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a young Pakistani actor whose career highlight has been playing perpetrators in crime reenactments on America's Most Wanted, Rahman offers over-the-top episodes of astounding wit and hilarity, in no particular chronological order, as Kareem: finds work as a costumed hawker of a trendy drink at a dive bar where he battles a dwarven rival for the crowd's business; reprises Brando's role of Kurtz in a musical production of Apocalypse Now at the Steak 'N Stage dinner theatre; and partakes in his recurring girlfriend, Eileen's, plan to pry money from her philanthropic grandmother. In the latter, title story, Kareem pretends to be a Bosnian war survivor, pitted against Eileen's ruse. The B-listers recognize each other and, rather than tattle, enter into a duel of "acting one-upsmanship," telling increasingly grandiose stories of atrocity and third-world living. After joining a Shakespeare troupe stranded in Pakistan and watching their driver revive his van with a mouthful of gas, then immediately light a cigarette without incident, Kareem: "expected his head to pop off with a bang, flames bellowing out his open neck." Self-deprecating and funny, Kareem is a memorable thespian worth following around. --Michael Ferch
From Publishers Weekly
Rahman's deadpan first collection of eight linked stories gets off to a promisingly weird start when Pakistani-American actor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar receives a letter and a one-way bus ticket from Eileen, an old girlfriend, who announces she's "through with big dicks and henceforth thinking constantly of you." It's a great opening scene, and a taste of what's to come. Kareem's career as a stand-in on television crime dramas like America's Most Wanted has ground to a halt, so joining Eileen in Ohio could be the fresh start he's been craving. Instead, Kareem winds up at the dinner table debating the plight of Bosnia with Eileen's sister Cecilia and her cannibal husband from the South Pacific, then gets a surprise marriage proposal from Eileen. The interrelated stories that follow jump somewhat awkwardly back and forth in time. After being abandoned by now ex-wife Eileen due to his excessive drinking, Kareem begins a miserable stint as a Zima spokesman. In later installments, he walks dogs for Manhattan's elite and works as a repo man recovering unreturned video tapes along with fellow actor Valentina, a woman whose speech consists only of movie dialogue. Meanwhile, he lands roles in a musical version of Apocalypse Now and a low-brow production of Hamlet. Rahman sometimes flirts too strenuously with surreality, but his comic precision restores balance. These stories are top-notch novelty acts, delightfully witty, quirky fun.
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