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Kapitoil: A Novel Paperback – April 13, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (April 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061873217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061873218
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #429,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Magazine writer Wayne's strong and heartfelt debut novel, set in New York City in the months leading up to the millennium, follows Karim Issar as he leaves his home and family in Qatar for a programming job at a Wall Street firm preparing for the Y2K bug. On the side, the very socially maladapted programming genius creates Kapitoil, a morally troubling computer program that allows his company to make a killing by modeling oil futures based on political instability. Meanwhile, a romance simmers with Rebecca, Karim's colleague and his guide to American culture. Ultimately, Karim must make a choice about his and his family's financial security and Kapitoil's potential for (perhaps) doing good in the world. Wayne zips through a minefield of potential clichés and comes out unscathed, striking a balance of humor and keen insight that propels the story through Karim's education about the West's ethics and its capitalism, while in the background the World Trade Center looms. It's a slick first novel that beautifully captures a time that, in retrospect, seems tragically naïve. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* It’s October 1, 1999, and young, brilliant, self-taught programmer Karim Issar is transferred from the Doha, Qatar, office of Schrub Equities to Manhattan for three months to help the high-flying firm get past Y2K without calamity. He finds the work worthwhile but routine, and his always-active mind studies cultural differences and the idiomatic English of his podmates. Within three weeks of his arrival, he has developed a program that predicts oil futures. Schrub’s profits rise dramatically, and Karim gets a plush new office, a 300 percent salary increase, and the personal attention of CEO Derek Schrub. As his stock soars, he embarks on a relationship with Rebecca, his former podmate; with her help, Karim begins to see that making money for the sake of making money isn’t a fully rewarding way of life. Told through Karim’s journal entries, this wonderfully assured debut novel, at once poignant, insightful, and funny, details Karim’s passage through a new world of corporate sharks, Manhattan clubs, museums, Bob Dylan lyrics, and personal growth. Karim’s English, always grammatically correct but stilted with terms from science, mathematics, computing, and business, is a delight. Best of all, however, is simply being inside Karim’s head as he ponders Jackson Pollock’s paintings, baseball, programming, and the mysteries of love and life in the U.S. --Thomas Gaughan

More About the Author

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels "The Love Song of Jonny Valentine" (Free Press, 2013) and "Kapitoil" (Harper Perennial, 2010). He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize runner-up, and a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His work appears regularly in The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, McSweeney's, and elsewhere. A graduate of Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis, he lives in New York. Visit his website at www.teddywayne.com.

Customer Reviews

And his story is equally sympathetic, interesting, and fun.
Gregory Zimmerman
Karim Issar's imaginative, hilarious, and often slightly misguided use of the English language is exactly what made this novel so funny, so strange and unforgettable.
S. Buishas
This was the first book in a very long time where I was very happy with the ending.
Books Distilled

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Howard Goldowsky on May 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
The title of this review, "This is a Stimulating Book to Upload to Your Brain," is how Karim Issar the first-person narrator of Kapitoil speaks: in an idiosyncratic techno-prose indicative of his computer programming background and his use of English as a second language. Teddy Wayne has created a marvelous voice in Karim, somewhat reminiscent of Alex Perchov's Ukrainian voice in Jonathan Safron Foer's Everything Is Illuminated. Wayne worked a few years editing essays written by foreign students, so he's had an opportunity to study their way of speaking. Karim's voice is the most entertaining part of the novel; yet the novel is much, much more than that.

Karim comes to New York from Qatar to help work on the Y2K problem for his company, Schrub Equities (possible a satire on Schwab Equities). The year is 1999. The book is broken into chapters that are entries in Karim's journal. Karim projects all of your typical nerdy qualities: social awkwardness, good with math, meticulous about technical details. He's even observant when native English speakers employ "non-optimal grammar," as he puts it, in Karim-esque prose. The end of each journal entry lists the American idioms Karim came across that day, along with what they mean. As a hobby, Karim works on a computer program he invented to take advantage of the oil futures market. The program turns into a hit with his professional superiors, and before Karim knows it he is a star in the New York office (which, by the way, happens to be located in the World Trade Center).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Clay on January 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was introduced to the writing of Teddy Wayne through an essay published in the New Times magazine (Jan 5, `14), and knew the voice was authentic and important on many levels, and for a wide range of readers.

I ordered "Kapitoil" immediately and, as Karim, the protagonist, might say, I was much enhanced by the story. Though quite removed from my personal world context, "Kapitoil" quickly became an inspiration, almost a manifesto for some of my own struggles, choices, and paths less traveled by.

There are universal themes in the novel that affirm life as I find it, and inspire me toward a rich and satisfying path of growth, success, and humility.

I strongly recommend "Kapitoil" as a pleasurable, often lightly humorous, and elegantly human story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bookbag on May 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent! Written in the form of journal entries. Main character Karim arrives in NY from Qatar for business. As he learns English, he is extremely literal resulting in some humorous incidents. However, the theme is serious, involving a decision he must make.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark Brooks on March 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An original voice; sweet, innocent, well formed characters and plot... Emotionally satisfying, nicely captures a romance without cliche... Excellent ending
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By lucycal on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is smart, humorous and thought provoking. It didn't take long to get attached to the quirky main character. The book provided interesting discussion material for our book club.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BronxRev on July 28, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I had heard some good reviews for it. Ultimately I was disappointed in what I read, but the story is finely crafted and tuned, so that alone is enough to warrant the three stars. The author has some very interesting ways to describe things and as we are given the protagonist's view of what he sees, his work leaks into what he sees. Some of his interactions are very real and heart warming (such as his main love interest as well as his relationship with his co-workers). In the end, however, the protagonist comes across as too flat of a character for me to have cared. This was supposed to be a great post 9-11 book, but I don't see why. Read it for the solid tale spun, nothing more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lynn G on April 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
I have to say I enjoyed most of the book. I've read reviews that said he had to decide in the end on greed or roots. It would have been far more interesting if we had some hint of this internal struggle somewhere in the book. He kept telling his sister to ignore his father's wishes and go for the stars, use her talents as he did, then, the weird surprise ending.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Denise D. Lager on April 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Teddy Wayne's protagonist, Karim, is one of the most endearing heroes of recent fiction. A socially awkward math whiz, he comes to Manhattan to work in a Wall Street hedge firm, he confronts the fast paced life of instant gratification and short term financial thinking that young Americans accept as the norm. Current mores and patterns of speech baffle Karim as he endeavors to navigate the pitfalls of creating a computer program to predict oil futures that his CEO wants to own for nefarious purposes. Rebecca, the young half-Jewish colleague he falls in love with understand him better than he understands himself. She and other New Yorkers he meets are presented as real human beings, with whom Karim establishes friendships in his poignant and deeply relevant journey of self-discovery in New York. An absolutely delicious read, a page turner thanks to Wayne's meticulous, polished prose and storytelling abilities... a great find!
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