From Publishers Weekly
Set adrift by sudden unemployment, the Candide-like protagonist of this biting satire of modern capitalism encounters other denizens of a dystopian Wonderland, including a con woman who mails bogus consulting bills to random businesses, some of whom pay up; a boy obsessed with sex; and a woman in pink lamé with a "background in medieval history and retail sales." Sustained by faith in the "Global Free Market," they endure sweatshops, war and the incessant search for employment amid nonstop economic upheaval. Their calamities are soothed by a culture of inane uplift: workplace fatalities are papered over with grief counseling, management celebrates the diversity of its viciously exploited labor force and the Panglossian Dr. Fingerdoo urges mourners at a funeral to "visualize success." It's a funny caricature, but Cates (Hunger in America
) gets at something subtler. In a society that extols nomadism and gnawing insecurity as "Mobility and Choice," his characters surrender individual autonomy—and responsibility—to the mysterious workings of the market, concluding that the world is a "big wind" that "lifts and flaps us like sheets on the line, and our one true choice is to hang on or not." Cates delivers a caustic but never cynical take on what he sees as the demoralizing fatalism implicit in today's market-mad ideology.
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Voltaire's eighteenth-century satire Candide
poked fun at the philosophical notion then in vogue that we live in "the best of all possible worlds." Closely imitating the format and plot of Voltaire's classic but updating its biting wit for modern readers, Cates skewers the current capitalistic enthusiasm for free trade while following the fortunes of a man known simply as X. Hailing from the euphemistically named Wonderland (a thinly disguised U.S.), X has a thriving career as radio talk-show host, and his love life looks bright after he meets his soul mate, a woman named C. Then a sudden tornado destroys his home, separates him from C, and leaves him homeless. His ensuing journey takes him across the globe in a series of misadventures in which his fortunes alternate between prosperity and destitution. Only the roving Dr. Fingerdoo's philosophy--that optimism and positive thinking create wealth--sustains him. Cates drives home with painful black humor the inequities of a global economy. Perhaps this should be required reading for die-hard capitalists and corporate CEOs. Carl HaysCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved