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Kapitoil [Paperback]

Teddy Wayne
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 July 2010
'Sometimes you do not truly observe something until you study it in reverse', writes Karim Issar upon arrival to New York City from Qatar in 1999. Fluent in numbers, logic, and business jargon, yet often baffled by human connection, the young financial wizard soon creates a computer program named Kapitoil that predicts oil futures and reaps record profits for his company. At first an introspective loner adrift in New York's social scenes, he anchors himself to his legendary boss Derek Schrub and to Rebecca, a sensitive, disillusioned colleague. Her influence, and his father's disapproval of Karim's Americanization, cause him to question the moral implications of Kapitoil, moving him toward a decision that will determine the course of the rest of his life...

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd (22 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715638947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715638941
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 698,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel Kapitoil (Duckworth) and is the recipient of a 2011 Whiting Writers' Award and an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, and was the 2011 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize runner-up and a finalist for the 2011 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He is a graduate of Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis, where he taught fiction and creative nonfiction writing. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Time, Esquire, McSweeney's, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in New York.

Product Description


'The first funny novel about oil' -- GQ. ''Kapitoil' is one of those uncommon novels that really is novel. Though the storytelling is conventional, it is satisfyingly so, and the book's estimable young narrator is a human type whom nobody until Wayne was ever inspired to write about' --Jonathan Franzen

'Teddy Wayne has written one of the best novels of my generation... Why did 9/11 happen, and why do we continue to respond so blindly? Wayne answers these questions beter than Mohsin Hamid or Joseph O'Neill, the best authors of this genre until now... Wayne has completely foreseen and transcended the exhaustion of the 9/11 genre' -- The Boston Globe. 'Brilliant... a major literary talent' --Houston Chronicle

'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 US' -- Booklist (starred review). 'With 'Kapitoil', Teddy Wayne invents - and perfects! - the pre-9/11 novel' --Vanity Fair

About the Author

Teddy Wayne is a graduate of Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis. He is the recipient of a NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, and his work has appeared in the 'New Yorker', 'The New York Times', 'Vanity Fair', 'Time', 'Esquire', 'McSweeney's', and elsewhere. He lives in New York City.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Kapitoil follows the exploits of Qatari financial wizard and software programmer, Karim Issar as he relocates to New York to assist his employer, Schaub Equities, in combating against the Y2K bug which is due to hit in three months. It is not long before Karim develops a software application that looks to be of real value to the company. It's a piece of software that Karim christens `Kapitoil', and it's able to make solid revenue by predicting the future price of oil. It's not long before the `higher ups' begin to get interested in Karim's creation.

Now, I want to allay any fears that Kapitoil is nothing more than a dull `yawnathon' based around American corporations and business jargon. It's nothing of the sort! Although there are episodes when the narrative does turn to more boring aspects such as business talk, software engineering, number crunching and stock market predictions etc. (well the main character Karim Issar is a geeky computer whizz, after all), most of this novel is about one man trying to make sense of the oddities of New York life, while also trying to make himself fit in. It's more of an exploration of how someone gets to grips with an alien environment, and Teddy Wayne plays out this exploration incredibly well, using a character who is every bit as memorable as any you are likely to find, and with a storyline that exalts that character to the max.

The principal character, Karim's main stand out point is the distinctive `voice' and vocabulary that Teddy Wayne has engineered for him. And as Kapitoil is presented in the form of a personal journal - Karim's own personal journal - the reader is continually exposed to this main character's unique vocabulary; a vocabulary that another character in the novel refers to as 'Karim-esque'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner! 6 Jan 2011
From the minute I received the book and I started reading it I couldn't put it down. The novel is set in New York the main character is a brainy computer programmer from Qatar (the country will be hosting 2022 World Cup) who is deployed to the US to work on Y2K ( year 2000) project.I found this novel to be well written and well researched and full of subtle humor.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  42 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a Stimulating Book to Upload to Your Brain 6 May 2010
By Howard Goldowsky - Published on Amazon.com
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). A series of serendipitous events happen that land Karim the "cream of the cream" girls, money, power, a-la Forrest Gump. A potential serious love interest parallels the main plot.

At its deepest level, this book is about how technical disciplines such as math, science, or programming trump the inexact feelings of social relations, while at the same time how proper social discourse remains immune to the fallibility of logic inherent within these disciplines. As Karim navigates the complexities of social interaction, in both the business world and in his personal life, he grows as a person. Slowly he changes, even beginning to utilize his glossary of idioms, in his own speech. Slowly he turns away from his Muslim background and adopts some aspects of American culture. By the end of the book Karim must make a decision: He must decide if he wants to absorb himself completely into the greed of American life, with the help of his money-making program, or return to his roots.

In some ways this book is a satire on corporate America, circa 1999; in some ways this book is a satire about the differences between American culture and traditional Muslim culture. Mostly, however, the book is a satire about people who are not honest with themselves or honest about their personal strengths and weaknesses. Karim himself doesn't even always do everything correct according to his moral compass. One of my favorite pieces of dialogue was said twice. In both cases it occurred when Karim needed to make a decision between having sex and what he believed to be the more morally correct choice. Karim was constantly worried about (and I paraphrase) "my body defeating my brain." In the end, however, Karim's humbleness and honesty about his social skills, confidence about his analytic abilities, and honesty in his journal about his transgressions -- and there are many transgression, to his Muslim faith, to his love interests, etc. -- makes him the hero of the book.

Teddy Wayne's ability to come up with incredible dialogue, dialogue that can propel a book's plot, carve characters, etc., solidifies, in my mind at least, his writing ability, and I'm looking forward to his second book. My only complaint was that some of the characters did not benefit as well from the "gimmicky" dialogue, and came across as somewhat two-dimensional. Otherwise I would have given the book five stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing adventures of geeky Arab kid in New York 21 Oct 2014
By Alan A. Elsner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deep, captivating novel of discovery 10 Jan 2014
By R. Clay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was introduced to the writing of Teddy Wayne through an essay published in the New Times magazine (Jan 5, `14), and knew the voice was authentic and important on many levels, and for a wide range of readers.

I ordered "Kapitoil" immediately and, as Karim, the protagonist, might say, I was much enhanced by the story. Though quite removed from my personal world context, "Kapitoil" quickly became an inspiration, almost a manifesto for some of my own struggles, choices, and paths less traveled by.

There are universal themes in the novel that affirm life as I find it, and inspire me toward a rich and satisfying path of growth, success, and humility.

I strongly recommend "Kapitoil" as a pleasurable, often lightly humorous, and elegantly human story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kapitoil 7 May 2013
By Bookbag - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent! Written in the form of journal entries. Main character Karim arrives in NY from Qatar for business. As he learns English, he is extremely literal resulting in some humorous incidents. However, the theme is serious, involving a decision he must make.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An original, poignant story... 16 Mar 2013
By Mark Brooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An original voice; sweet, innocent, well formed characters and plot... Emotionally satisfying, nicely captures a romance without cliche... Excellent ending
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