From Publishers Weekly
"Human life is cosmic to observe and tragic to experience," declares Charles Xique Xique Duckworth, the narrator of Wilson's ( Bluegrass ) satirical fourth novel. A foundling discovered in a Brazilian river by a professor doing field research, he is the last of his tribe, the Xique Xique having been wiped out to make way for a rubber plantation. Charlie is raised by Professor and Mrs. Duckworth in England, and is quickly made aware that he is different than other people. Yet he perseveres and eventually earns a degree in psychology from the University of Kniggle, an ironic accomplishment because Charlie is convinced that the Xique Xique were not human but instead the homo sapien's evolutionary cousins who simply lost the game of natural selection. When he recounts his moment of recognition he admits, "I didn't know what I should do in life. But I believed it must involve impersonation; that to defend myself I'd have to gain a human facade." The facade is not one of appearance but of personality and motivation: Charlie adopts aggressiveness as his protective coloration. The author, who holds a doctorate on humor from the London School of Economics, accommodates the suspension of disbelief through a discreet use of puns that reinforces Charlie's beliefs and observations. The ending is inevitable but not contrived, and Wilson's commentary on the nature of humanity is solidly driven home.
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