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The Thought Gang
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A fat, middle-aged British philosopher turns glutton, slacker, embezzler and thief in Fischer's second novel (after Under the Frog), an infectiously immoral tale about bank robbery in contemporary France. We meet Greek philosophy don Eddie Coffin as he goes on the lam from Cambridge, where, to avoid what he despises above all‘work‘he has stolen the funds of a Japanese foundation, stashing them in a suitcase. Not far from Lyon, a car accident sends his carefully cached funds up in smoke, leaving him one choice: to rob banks, a trade he learns under the tutelage of crippled thug Hubert. Together, the duo are drunk, lazy and violent, but in such an innocent way that it's hard to begrudge them their subsequent fantastic run of bank-robbing luck. Coffin's stylized first-person narration (numbered in sections, like a philosophical treatise) can be grating, but eventually even wisecracks about Epictetus and Zeno‘as well as Coffin's unexplained fascination with words that begin with the letter Z‘become part of the fun. The juxtaposition of egghead metaphysics and juvenile gangster fantasy is summed up in the line, ``The thing about a gun is, it's like being on the right side of a Socratic dialogue.'' Often complex in structure, incorporating flashbacks of Coffin's old friends and family to touching effect, this jaunty novel is fundamentally an exercise in wish-fulfillment: shoot guns, get cash, spend it on French food. (May)

One middle-aged English philosopher, improbably named Eddie Coffin, down on his luck after fleeing England because of a never-explained incident involving kiddie porn, meets Hubert, a one-armed, one-legged petty robber who is also down and out, although Hubert is a cunning criminal and a superb street fighter. The two join forces in France to commit a string of bank robberies. In between the robberies and Coffin's liaisons with the first bank teller he meets are musings about the value of money, the pleasures of love, life, the police, knowledge and education, the nature of humankind, and at least a few dozen other topics. The author is fond of constructions such as "Then the present wasn't present....Gradually, I was presented with the present of the present." After readers finish the word play, they can work on the vocabulary (e.g., words like cadge, nychthemeron, cachinnate, avolating, and phantophagous abound). Fischer (Under the Frog, New Pr., 1994) tries to be glib, clever, and amusing; sometimes, he succeeds. For larger libraries serving readers of eclectic fiction who like a challenge.‘Olivia Opello, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.

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