Lori's Reviews > Kapitoil

Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne
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Jul 24, 10

bookshelves: arc-reviewers-copy, fricken-awesome, fiction, signed-by-author
Read from July 20 to 24, 2010

ARC from publisher/author

This book surprised me. It sat there, all harmless looking, in it's brown and red and black design, with it's runaway drop of oil very nicely mirroring the Empire State building, creating an inky rorschach-like design.

Now, I am certainly not above googling words when I struggle to spell them - and rorschach was one I definitely needed assistance with, so try to imagine the tiny little 'vibration' that coursed through me when I saw that rorschach was defined as " a psychological test in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex scientifically derived algorithms, or both."

You don't get it yet, do you? Ok, let me explain. See, I knew what rorschach meant - I mean, I might not know how to spell it, but give me some credit here, you know! However, the word "algorithms", as it appears in the definition, hit me like a brick in the face. How absolutely fitting!!

Teddy Wayne's main character, a NYC banking transplant from Qatar, creates a program that can predict the future rise and fall of the price of the oil ... using algorithms. Sweet! Right?!

(Internal conversation with self: Wait, why is everyone staring at me like that? Ok, alright, I know. Calm down Lori, you're acting silly. Deep breaths. People are looking at you like you have just taken a swan dive off the deep end. They aren't going to understand completely unless they have read the book. So I have to find a way to get them to read it, right? To make them see? Don't I owe this to them? No. You don't. Yes. I do. I owe it to them. I must make them see! )

If you are anything like me, you may walk right past this novel, never thinking twice about. A book about financial banking, starring a grammatically correct computer wiz who slaves over a program that can search the internet for key words like "terrorism; terrorist; bomb; war" and use them to accurately predict the price of oil in order to assist his company increase their net value - yawn - right?

WRONG. Oh so very very wrong.

This book is so much more than computer programing and oil prices. It's really about humanity, and taking chances, and making a fool out of yourself, and struggling to fit in, and standing up for what you believe in when it would be so much easier to just back down and give in.

It really is amazing.

Teddy Wayne, first time novelist, is a naturally humorous guy. He has been contributing to McSweeny's for many years, though I just recently discovered it, and his hilariousness shines through so naturally in Kapitoil.

When we met at the Book Blogger Convention Reception in NYC back in May, he made a potentially awkward situation so wonderfully memorable as we joked about they way the internet, and its instantaneous access to everyone and everything, took what used to be viewed as a bad or socially unacceptable behavior ("following people") and turned it into a worldwide phenomenon that is now 100% acceptable, and sometimes even expected. "Will you follow me?" "Why won't he follow me?" "I have 300 followers".

That conversation can translate into anything we say or do. The meaning of english words change and evolve as we tweak and adjust their use in our day to day lives. Which confuses the heck out Karim Issar - The shining star of Wayne's novel.

He transfers from his position in Qatar to it's NYC branch, entering America in all it's ungrammatical glory in 1999. While this pre-9/11 story outlines the differences in religious, social, and work ethic habits of two very different cultures, it also brings to light the hilariously horrible ways we natives use and abuse the english language.

Karim carries a voice recorder in his pocket in an attempt to enhance his understanding of english. Idioms confuse him. Incorrect application of grammar irks him. He has a very strange, stiff way of speaking, of which he is painfully aware, and so he documents new words and sayings and begins to use them liberally when speaking to coworkers and friends in an attempt to fit in. Of course, the more he tries to apply them, the more uncomfortable and humorous his interactions become.

This novel really tickled my funny bone, and at times even hit home a bit harder than I anticipated. Working for a large company who believes very strongly in workplace diversity, I interact with associates who speak english as a second language on a daily basis. So some of Karim's frustrations and assumptions were familiar to me.

Run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore. Adopt a copy of Kapitoil now. Bring Karim and his kooky english into your home and into your life. You won't regret it. It may just become your Next Best Book too.
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