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Dream Merchant    by Fred Waitzkin order for
Dream Merchant
by Fred Waitzkin
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Carrol Wolverton

Can Total Depravity Win Out?

All characters in this novel operate in an amoral fictitious world, even the narrator, who is presumably the never named author. He is finally called Bub a term of dismissal by the protagonist, the Dream Merchant.

Jim, with no last name, strives his whole life to be the super salesman his father tried to be. This role model, however, stole everything from Jim's mother and disappeared. Didn't matter, Jim wanted to be like him, wear his flashy suits, and succeeded all too well. Using one pyramid scheme after another engineered by a strange man named Marvin Gesler, Jim alternately owns the world, then loses it.

Somewhere in his seventies, after abandoning a couple of destitute wives and losing all for the second time, Jim winds up living with an illegal immigrant from Israel in a run down apartment in Miami. His twenty something wife comes with two kids and an ex-husband living nearby. Hmmm. Her goal is a good life for herself and her kids in America, and she scams Jim just as he did others for years. As Jim so often says, we just want to believe. He does, too. As the narrator says near the end, Jim has written an original and fallen into his own illusion.

Where the novel loses me is in its portrayal of really stupid women. Jim uses women and their bodies to attract sales and to satisfy his own appetites. None of these women seem to have minds. Wife one and two are left penniless. The third, Mara, uses her younger body to keep Jim under control. No one has any substance, and maybe that's the whole point. There is nothing at the bottom of the pyramid. They are all dream merchants and bleak ones at that.

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