Missy Schwartz
May 28, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In Wakefield when the devil shows up in the apartment of a disillusioned motivational speaker named Wakefield, the two strike a deal over single-malt scotch. The horned one doesn’t want Wakefield’s soul (for, as he points out, ”you’re assuming, dear sir, that you have one”), but proof our protagonist has an ”authentic life” and is therefore worthy of remaining on earth. So Wakefield, who gives talks on such comically diffuse topics as ”Money and Poetry (with a Detour in Art),” sets out on a soul-searching lecture tour, keeping company with lesbian fashion models, opponents of cultural imperialism, and S&M strippers. Beelzebub, meanwhile, undergoes a psychological slump of his own. With the sophisticated, philosophical wit we’ve come to expect from his NPR commentaries, Codrescu weaves a fantastical, postmodern tale in which plastic surgery, architecture, and technology are metaphors for the human condition.

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