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WEDNESDAY

Near the beginning of his latest novel, Wakefield, Andrei Codrescu quotes Tristan Tzara: “All thinking is formed in the mouth.” So it would seem for Codrescu, whose commentaries on National Public Radio often depend as much on that slightly smirky Romanian accent as on any novel content. I remember in particular a March radio piece on dada-style spam; we’d read aloud these absurd collections of words many a time at the office, long before Codrescu’s droll intonations made them seem noteworthy enough for All Things Considered. Now the poet, essayist, and Yakov for the Utne set has rewritten the Faust story, like Goethe, Murnau, Jan Svankmajer, and Randy Newman before him: Curmudgeonly motivational speaker Wakefield makes a bargain with Satan to find “an authentic life” in America within a year. “Did he check out farmers?” deadpanned my spouse. No—so far it looks like a dysfunctional group portrait of artists, New Agers, and various sexual adventurers, with bits of satire (“We Russians are sick of the devil, he did enough for us already”) stuck on here and there like toilet paper on razor nicks. Worse, it reads like Tom Robbins without the lavish wordplay. Then again, I haven’t gotten very far; perhaps my thinking is formed on the page, no? Either way, enjoy Codrescu’s spoken-word sweet nothings at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 7, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Pamela Murray Winters)