A review of

X Out of Wonderland: A Saga

by David Allan Cates

Central question: What if Candide went to a Chinese restaurant?
Format: 152 pp., hardcover; Price: $17.95; Publisher: Steerforth Press; Editor: Roland Pease; Print run: 5,500; Interior design: Peter Holm; Cover design: Louise Fili Ltd.; Typeface: Legacy; Author has worked as: cattle rancher (Wisconsin), fishing guide (Montana), Spanish interpreter for medical professionals (Honduras); Season author spent playing pro basketball in Costa Rica: 1979-80; Author is executive director of: Missoula Medical Aid, a charity providing medical care and expertise to Central American countries; Representative sentence: “‘WHY?’ [X] shouted. ‘BECAUSE!’ God said.”

In Candide, published in 1759, Voltaire’s characters endure syphilis, enslavement, near-drowning, a catastrophic earthquake, the forced removal of one buttock, and the loss of treasured pet sheep. None of this shakes the title character’s optimism. Candide, “a youth whom nature had endowed with a most sweet disposition,” believes, as does his mentor Pangloss, that theirs is “the best of all possible worlds.” Voltaire’s modus operandi was to skewer the chipper tenets of philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), who believed our planet, made by God, to be an inherently good and reasonable place.

Candide is a cheeky book, and admirably so. The same can be said of David Allan Cates’s X Out of Wonderland: A Saga, a modern adaptation of Voltaire’s satire. Wonderland is well-served by its brevity (152 pages) and by Cates’ buoyant, insightful prose. This is humor that stings a little, and the author’s observations are funny and fine-tuned throughout.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Lara Tupper

Lara Tupper used to be a lounge singer in Dubai. She now teaches writing at Rutgers University and curates the Apocalypse NOW Reading Series in New York City. Her first novel, A Thousand and One Nights, is complete.

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