Summary and book reviews of The Dream Merchant by Fred Waitzkin

The Dream Merchant

by Fred Waitzkin

The Dream Merchant by Fred Waitzkin X
The Dream Merchant by Fred Waitzkin
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  • Published:
    Mar 2013, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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Book Summary

A powerful, sexy, and exquisitely written heart-of-darkness tale of an unusually gifted, irrepressible and indefatigable salesman who must find redemption in his old age

The Dream Merchant explores the capacity of a good person to do bad things. Jim is a charismatic and caring, yet increasingly flawed salesman who becomes an addicted gambler, womanizer and criminal as he wins over countless people, through his charms and a series of financial scams.  Just as quickly as his fortunes rise, he loses everything, leaving people ruined in his wake.

Eventually he becomes a modern Lord Jim, operating a lawless and violent gold mining operation in the Brazilian Jungle, South of Manaus. As an old man, he meets Mara, a beautiful young Israeli woman with dark ambitions of her own. In the process of their unlikely life together the girl finds herself turned on by this old man, as if his profligate history of glory and big money, and finally his weakness and proximity to death in her embrace, create an urgency that is erotically charged.

Narrated by a writer equally mesmerized and, at times, repulsed by this larger-than-life character, the novel recalls classics by Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Marquez and Roth.

1.

BIMINI, BAHAMAS, 1983

I met Jim in July of 1983 on a tropical island rife with offshore breezes and nights lusty with renewal and reckless hope. I came here to fish in the Gulf Stream each summer, to get time off my back.

We were the only two customers in the tiny End of the World Saloon, but I barely noticed him when I sat down at the sandy weathered bar.

Hello, Ebb Tide, said Cornelius, a heavyset bartender who wore gaudy gold rings from a half-dozen years earlier when he'd worked for Colombians off-loading bales of marijuana. I had known him since I was a kid. He always called me Ebb Tide, the name of my fishing boat. Cornelius pulled a Heineken out of a beat-up cooler and set it on the bar in front of me.

The End of the World was an unpainted plywood shack set precariously on the windy south point of Bimini Island in the Bahamas. I loved drinking beer here at night so close to the channel you could hear the tide running and the sound of jacks crashing on schools of baitfish. A...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Though some have described The Dream Merchant as a dark morality tale, a label that implies that this novel will have a "moral" or lesson to take away by the end, the novel refuses to proscribe a view on whether Jim's behavior is right or wrong. Depending on the chapter in his life, the answer can cut both ways.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

Full Review (814 words).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal
The obvious comparison is to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, but readers of Philip Roth's Zuckerman novels will recognize Waitzkin's approach.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Waitzkin offers a singular and haunting morality tale, sophisticated, literary and intelligent. Thoroughly entertaining. Deeply imaginative. Highly recommended.

Author Blurb Sebastian Junger
Very few writers can deliver a story with this much heart. It is a great novel.

Author Blurb Gabriel Byrne
Brutal, erotic, and poignant. A man's search for self and home in a culture of illusion. Waitzkin's propulsive narrative makes for compelling reading from first page to last. A triumph.

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Beyond the Book

Fraudulent Money-Making Schemes

In The Dream Merchant, Jim made his money in fraudulent ways. Aided by his business partner Marvin Gessler, who was the mastermind of the fraud, Jim made millions through elaborate pyramid schemes.

A pyramid scheme Pyramid schemes rely on recruiting buyers who then recruit other buyers and so on. The original buyer, the con man, needs other buyers to generate sales before he starts to make money. As each new recruit pays, the original buyer gets a cut. The scheme quickly collapses once the people at the bottom cannot recruit buyers and the money does not pay out. The Wealth Pools International scandal in 2007 is an example of a complex pyramid scheme. Wealth Pools claimed to sell foreign language DVDs through a global network of salespeople. New ...

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