Gary Buslik’s Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls: A Novel of International Intrigue, Pork-Crazed Termites, and Motherhood is a bizarre, twisted, cynical, and ultimately amusing tale. It took me a while to really get into it and embrace the absurdity. Once I did, I came to enjoy the strange funhouse that Mr. Buslik has filled with exaggerated characters with few redeeming qualities.
This is a satirical work that’s deeply cynical, biting, and scathing especially when it comes to the portrayal of various Third World despots. To say that the Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, and Fidel Castro we meet in “Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls” don’t exactly fit the egomaniacal images they’ve sought to create for themselves would be an enormous understatement. They aren’t to be feared as much as mocked and Mr. Buslik takes to that task with relish and vigor. In addition to these targets, he also ladles out sarcastic scorn and disdain to leftist college professors, spoiled adult children, porky Midwesterners, and clueless humanitarians among others. There are really no heroes in the book (except maybe the termites) and only a couple of characters that the reader would evenly remotely feel sympathetic about. It’s definitely not a pretty world, but then again it isn’t supposed to be.
UPDATE: Some background on the author in his own words:
For the first three years of college I lied to my parents, telling them I was in pre-law. When I finally got outed as an English major, my mother couldn’t stop sobbing, and my father strode around the house shouting, “Big man! He knows the parts of speech!” So I wound up homeless, hanging around the airport reciting Rudyard Kipling for spare change. It was there I met a veteran travel writer, who took pity on me and showed me how, by making hotel and restaurant owners naively believe I would write good reviews about them, I could get free rooms, meals, and drinks. So I went on to forge a useless degree into a rewarding lifestyle.
I achieved only limited success as a travel writer because, not liking foreigners or new experiences, I despise traveling. I especially dislike going to countries that have children—which, unfortunately, are several. Once, on a flight I took from San Juan to St. Kitts, the plane, suffering from instrument trouble, had to make an emergency landing in Antigua, where mechanics found a Puerto Rican kid wedged behind the altimeter.
On the plus side, I did somewhat like assignments in Holland because the Dutch are funnier than other people when they’re drunk. They climb things for no apparent reason and fall on their heads. I suspects this is because they have to dig up tulip bulbs every fall and replant them in the spring.
Hard to argue with that last point. Drunk Dutchmen are funny.