A review by mrsthrift
Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne


This is the story of Karim Issar, who comes to the US from Qatar in 1999 to work as a computer programmer for a financial company in NYC. Karim was hired to help with the Y2K problem (heh, remember that?), but he invents a program that uses algorithms based on current events to predict fluctuations in oil commodities -- and invest/sell accordingly to make tons of money.

This book was easy and fun to read, and I enjoyed reading it. But at the end I had this feeling like "my god, was this written by a straight white American dude or WHAT?" I don't know for sure that Teddy Wayne is actually a straight white American dude, I'm just saying that was my perception. It's an enjoyable read, but not profound or deep like I think it was supposed to be. I think some of the ways that the author tries to explore "otherness" are cloying, condescending and outrageous. The "exploration" of "alienation" through the "idiosyncratic narrator" would have been more interesting/effective if it hadn't been entirely based on the racial, language and religious alienation of someone from Qatar in a pretty xenophobic society. Sometimes people just don't get that, though.

Maybe I have more thoughts on this, but I'm rushed. I liked what Sarah Manguso wrote about Kapitoil in the Morning News Tournament of Books here.