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Comment: Former library copy with typical stamps and markings. No writing or marking in text of book. There is a clear protective cover on the spine. May have stamps on edges of pages. No due date stickers.
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Kapitoil: A Novel Paperback – April 13, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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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
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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: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #768,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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This is one of those books in which a computer-savvy hero with limited social skills undergoes a 'sentimental education'. In this case, the hero, Karim, comes to Manhattan from his home in Qatar in 1999 (that is to say before 9/11.) His job is to to help rewrite the code to avert the threat of the computer system of an international commodities trading conglomerate crashing at the turn of the millennium.

Karim combines the traits of foreigner abroad, befuddled by the ways of America, with those of classic nerd befuddled at the ways of humans. He narrates the book as if he too is a computer. He uploads information and downloads feedback. He checks for bugs. Each chapter ends with a handy glossary of the slang Karim has learned.

Karim quickly invents a system that plugs in news events to fluctuations on the oil market, netting his employer millions. He finds himself on the fact track, playing squash with the billionaire CEO.He gets to sit in the executive box at the Yankees, rides in his helicopter and is even finally to spend the weekend at the boss' Connecticut estate. Meanwhile Karim is drawn into a relationship with high-strung colleague Rebecca. He gets stoned,gets drunk and falls mildly in love. It's a complete American experience.

This is all mildly amusing. Karim is an entertaining narrator, although not always intentionally. It's instructive to view our own country and culture through foreign eyes although the picture reflected back is not always flattering. Karim eventually finds himself facing a moral dilemma which brings the book to a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion. He does what he regards as the right thing. Readers are free to agree or disagree.

This book falls squarely into the tradition of the 'Connecticut Yankee at the Court of King Arthur.' We could call it 'Arab Geek at the Court of Wall Street.' It has some things to teach us but should not be taken too seriously.
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I thought this would be a good read, particularly because it was written in the Pre-9/11 Era of New York City, but I was very disappointed in the plot. The prose is clunky, and the author may claim it to be intentional, since it's written in a first-person perspective of a Qatari foreigner; yet, neither the plot nor the business/moral motives driving the characters in the story are compelling or logical.

The plot moves slowly, with very awkward romantic intrigue into what seems like should've been written as a thriller about New York finance firms; there's more family drama with trust fund babies more than actual ideas or actions driving the plot. Moreover, the motives of the characters seems to have been just mashed together, with some strange undercurrent of morality colliding with financial interest that really shows no basis from the main character.

Apart from the disastrous plot, the characters themselves are boring, inarticulate, and quite frankly amateurish caricatures that wouldn't be appropriate in a low-end student movie production. I really wouldn't recommend this to anybody.
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A tale of New York in the 2000s told by Karim, an immigrant from Qatar who is something of a savant. Despite his limited grasp of colloquial English and a limited understanding of American culture, he develops a software program that reliably predicts the price of oil, enabling his employer, a large investment bank, to reap substantial profits. He is rewarded with a desirable office, a substantial salary, and the attention of the firm's founder and his wife. Above all, Karim is an honest and honorable man. Despite his rapid rise in the world of finance, he maintains ties with his family in Qatar. Eventually Karim realizes that his employer is more interested in his program than in him and decides to abandon New York and return home. Karim is a very sympathetic character and his end-of the-chapter notes on the meaning of English expressions are a nice touch.
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