I Dream of Microwaves

I Dream of MicrowavesImad Rahman (MFA, 2001)

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004
ISBN: 0374174016

When B-movie-grade actor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar opens the mail one day, he find a one-way bus ticket to Cleveland and a note from his ex-girlfriend Eileen that reads, “Good news. I am through with big dicks and henceforth thinking constantly of you.” So begin the linked misadventures of one of the most endearing ne’er-do-wells to grace recent American fiction.

Kareem drops his job portraying Hispanic criminals on America’s Most Wanted and makes his way to Ohio, where he puts his dramatic skills to the test by impersonating a Bosnian refugee, in an attempt to help Eileen cash in on her grandmother’s philanthropy. Such virtuosity can’t last, however, and Kareem moves on, looking for a way to be himself when the camera isn’t rolling. In one story, he pushes drinks as the Zima Zorro at the Ancient Mariner Sports Bar and Grill; in another he roughs up Unrepentant Privilege Abuse Perpetrators as a rental video repossessor. He returns to the theater, as stage manager to an incestuous Shakespearean troupe adrift in Pakistan, and as a Kilgore hell-bent on getting bumped up to Kurtz in a musical dinner theater production of Apocalypse Now. As he follows Kareem’s quest for the big breaks in work and love, Imad Rahman explores the struggle for success and self-invention in contemporary life with originality, irreverence, and an absurdist wit that strikes unerringly close to the bone.