Andrei Codrescu Codrescu, Andrei - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Andrei Codrescu 1946–

(Has also written under pseudonyms Betty Laredo, Tristan Tzara, and Urmuz) American poet, short story writer, memoirist, essayist, journalist, novelist, and travel writer.

The following entry presents an overview of Codrescu's career through 1995. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Vol. 46.

Romanian-born poet Andrei Codrescu is celebrated for his spare, proto-surrealistic verse, his keen observation of contemporary culture, his affection for his adopted homeland, and his mastery of American idiom. Although best-known as guest commentator for the program "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio, he has published more than 20 volumes of poetry, fiction, essays, and autobiographical works. His themes deal largely with life in communist Romania and his experiences as an expatriate living in Rome, Paris, and the United States. His writing ranges from introspective verse on urban themes as in The History of the Growth of Heaven (1971) to a collection of short stories. Monsieur Teste in America (1987), in which English becomes a "toy box" of colloquialisms, to his Gothic thriller, The Blood Countess (1995), based on the life of a Dracula-like figure from history. Although Codrescu's poetry has been influenced by Romanian avantgardists such as poet and essayist Tristan Tzara (whose name Codrescu has used as a pseudonym) and dramatist Eugene Ionesco, it has also been compared to the works of American poets Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams. His prose fiction has been compared to the works of Zoe Oldenbourg, Anne Rice, and Franz Kafka.

Biographical Information

Born in Romania shortly before the communists came to power, Andrei Ivanovitch Goldmutter, (he changed his name to Codrescu while attending university) spent his first four years living amiably in his grandmother's castle in the hills of Transylvania. A precocious child, he was unpopular with other children. At age 16, he began to write poetry and became involved with his country's literary intelligentsia. Unfortunately, his poems, critical of the communist Ceausescu regime, caused his expulsion from the University of Bucharest. After receiving his master's degree from the University of Rome, he and his mother emigrated to the United States in 1966. He arrived in New York with no knowledge of English, but learned to speak the language on the street from hippies, poets, rock music, and other sources. He moved to Detroit, joined John Sinclair's Artist Workshop, and eventually went to California. With the publication of his first collection of poetry, License to Carry a Gun (1970), he was hailed as a promising young talent. This success was followed by his second collection of poetry, The History of the Growth of Heaven, and two autobiographical volumes of prose, The Life and Times of an Involuntary Genius (1975) and In America's Shoes (1983). In 1982, he founded a new journal, the Exquisite Corpse, a monthly magazine of "books and ideas" which combines opinion, satire, and commentary on current events. A year later, he began broadcasting weekly commentary on the American scene and world events for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered". A Craving for Swan (1986), a collection of two years of his broadcast essays, resulted. In the same year, he also published Comrade Past & Mister Present, a blend of prose, poetry, and journal entries, considered one of his finest works. In 1990, he was invited to drive cross-country and record his experiences. A compilation of these adventures, Road Scholar, came out in 1993 as both book and film. Codrescu is a professor at Louisiana State University and lives with his wife Alice and two children.

Major Works

Codrescu's first published volume, License to Carry a Gun, won him the Big Table award and established him as a promising young poet. In it are three personae who represent the confrontational philosophy of his early poetry: a jailed Puerto Rican poet, an ex-beatnik turned "mystical Fascist" in Vietnam, and a woman who wants to "touch something sensational / like the mind of a shark." His second collection of poetry, The History of the Growth of Heaven, is a mix of surrealism and introspection about contemporary events and personal experience. Most significant is the re-creation of his childhood in Sibiu, Romania, and Ceausescu's feared Securitate, which was housed there. Two autobiographical volumes of prose followed, The Life and Times of an Involuntary Genius and In America's Shoes (1983). The Life and Times deals with his longing for self-expression in his homeland behind the Iron Curtain and the culture shock he suffered when he arrived in the United States. Shoes, written in a warm, humorous tone, details his emergence into the American way of life. His Selected Poems, 1970–1980, was also published in 1983. In 1982, Codrescu became editor of a new journal, the Exquisite Corpse, a monthly magazine which combines opinion, satire, and polemics on contemporary culture. A year later, he began broadcasting weekly commentary on the American scene and world events for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." This resulted in the publication A Craving for Swan a collection of 150 of his broadcast essays. In the same year he published Comrade Past & Mister Present, which includes several long poems as well as prose and journal entries. The volume, considered one of his finest works, is a collection of memoirs and opinion on moral, sexual, and political issues. In 1987 he published two books, a collection of essays entitled The Disappearance of the Outside, and a collection of short stories entitled Monsieur Teste in America, a tour de force on the American vernacular. His The Hole in the Flag (1991) documents with awe and revulsion the Romanian revolt of 1989. Lighter themes are encompassed in Road Scholar (1993), a compilation of Codrescu's adventures while driving cross-country in a 1968 Cadillac. The book was also made into a film. The Blood Countess is Codrescu's first novel. The book is a Gothic thriller based on Codrescu's real-life Hungarian ancestor, Elizabeth Bathory, who is depicted as a sadistic, Dracula-like tyrant of the 16th century.

Critical Reception

Although Codrescu's earliest poems caused his expulsion from the University of Bucharest, critical reception in the West has been generally favorable. From the publication of his first collection of poetry, License to Carry a Gun, for which he received the Big Table award, reviewers have considered him a rising talent. His self-denigrating sense of humor, his keen insight on contemporary culture, and his mastery of American idiom in his essays and memoirs such as A Craving for Swan and The Hole in the Flag have also won him accolades. Reviewing A Craving for Swan, Charles Bishop calls Codrescu a "witty and insightful commentator whose unique background, gift for language, and radical common sense make this a recommended book." Alex Kozinski says in the New York Times Book Review that The Hole in the Flag is "a work of great complexity and subtlety … a gripping political detective story." While Codrescu's first novel The Blood Countess has received mixed reviews, Kirkus Reviews calls it an "expertly crafted first novel … that merits comparison with the fiction of Zoe Oldenbourg and Marguerite Yourcenar."

Principal Works

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

License to Carry a Gun (poetry) 1970
The History of the Growth of Heaven (poetry) 1971
The Life and Times of an Involuntary Genius (memoirs) 1975
In America's Shoes (memoirs) 1983
Selected Poems, 1970–1980 (poetry) 1983
A Craving for Swan (essays) 1986
Comrade Past & Mister Present (poetry and prose) 1986
The Disappearance of the Outside (essays) 1987
Monsieur Teste in America (short stories) 1987
American Poetry since 1970: Up Late (editor) (poetry) 1988
The Hole in the Flag (memoirs) 1991
Road Scholar (travel essays) 1993
The Blood Countess (novel) 1995
The Muse is Always Half-Dressed in New Orleans (essays) 1995
Alien Candor: Selected Poems 1970–1995 (poetry) 1996
The Dog with the Chip in His Neck (essays) 1996
Blood Countess (novel) 1998
Hail Babylon!: In Search of the American City at the End of the Millennium (essays) 1998
A Bar in Brooklyn: Novellas and Stories 1970–1978 (short stories) 1999
Ay Cuba!: A Socio-Erotic Journey (travel essays) 1999
Messiah (novel) 1999

Marcel Cornis-Pop (review date Spring 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Escape into New Languages: The Avant-Gardist Ideals and Constraints of Andrei Codrescu's Poetry," in Sagetrieb, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring, 1987, pp. 21-39.

[In the following review, Cornis-Pop discusses the experimental, proto-surrealistic style of Codrescu's poetry.]

Having avantbiographed the world
To make another come right out of it
I have certain scribbler's rights
On the next one—endlessly impregnate
The self about to be designed.

I praise the lava holes

whence issued my first passport.
(Comrade Past & Mister Present 34)


Andrei Codrescu, "the Involuntary Genius of American surrealism," defies easy description. In his case the very label of "surrealism" seems partly inappropriate and confining. As his newest book, The Disappearance of the Outside makes clear. Codrescu has little patience for the watered down, domestic variant of surrealism "adrift/today/in the Mall"; and even less for the international "poetic sludge used by translators and mandarin poets to sculpt the sad shape of the present." His real interest goes with the proto-surrealistic spirit that, before the days of universal collage and "ecriture automatique," imbued everything (including its own procedures) in the acids of deconstructive wit.

Critics, especially upon the publication of Selected Poems 1970–1980, regarded Codrescu's avant-gardist beginnings with a certain melancholic relief: "… It is interesting to see that, yes, Codrescu did have a poetic youth and a risky, experimental style which fits his times. What is more interesting is how he developed certain aspects over the years." There is, undoubtedly, significant poetic development from License to Carry a Gun (1970) to Comrade Past & Mister Present (1986): but not necessarily away from experimentation towards some "consolidation of gains" and closure. Codrescu's aggressive, "schizoactivist" style has grown subtler, its ideological and poetic intents more articulate (consider the "The Juniata Diary"). Codrescu's recent poems still make a somewhat discordant and eccentric figure in contemporary poetry. At a time when American poetry seems content to follow a cautious notion of "risk" (as poetry editor for the Paris Review. Michael Benedikt welcomed "poems that are coherently risky, that take risks that succeed"), Codrescu has consistently walked a jagged edge of risk, pushing the imaginary borderline between poetic freedoms and constraints further out. A most difficult task, to be sure, given the increasing pressures that work on poetry at present: "… In 1967, I was experimenting with all sorts of looseness, riffing, rhythm. (I had a different accent everyday). Then I tightened up a bit for my masters, the publishers. First, Paul Carroll raised my capitals & raped my text with punctuation. Then Mike Braziller with his insistence on the elegiac. Then my surrealist fans with their insistence on recognition (i.e. orthodoxy). All of these insistences, even when strenuously or successfully resisted, left some of their fingerprints, if not the shape of their pressure, on my work. Of course, one evolves that way too, nobody's a frozen CB" (Comrade Past & Mister Present 92).

Codrescu's biography as a poetic "mutant" is in many ways representative: the story of a Central European expatriate in pursuit of his mythic America, that slowly receding boundary of the imaginative outside. "He arrived in New York (Stephens recounts) not knowing a word of English, and once told me how the taxi driver who drove him from the airport into Manhattan charged him $17 for the trip, leaving him $3, a bundle of Romanian poems, and a good knowledge of Italian his first time in the Village." His next trip was to Ginsberg's apartment in the Lower East Side, to join the great American scene of experiment about which he had read in books; but to his amazement, he found that scene on the wane. In only a few more years poetry entered the "Age of Confusion" at the hands of a "generation of neo-academics who turned out a quasi-surrealistic product culled from the numerous bad translations that mushroomed under the urinary inflationism of Robert Bly." Codrescu still spent a euphoric intermezzo in the wide-open culture of the San Francisco Area before his dream of a free and borderless Idea-State subsided: "Suddenly, all around me, the people fell silent. They put their shoes back on. The chill of mortality was in the air…."

Codrescu also brought with him the secret aspirations and nostalgias of another interrupted avant-garde, the Romanian: "I had natural Surrealistic sympathies and was determined not to let the Balkans down: after all we had originated Dada and gave voice to the absurd. Proto-Surrealisms of various kinds floated about us since the Symbolists. I was temperamentally and genetically suited for New York in the 1960s." The Romanian avant-garde fits better than any other modernistic trend the description of Avantgardismus Interruptus. Emerging on the European scene at a time when Western culture allowed itself to be off-centered and deconstructed with greater ease, the first wave of Romanian avant-gardists (Brancusi, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Iancu, Victor Brauner) contributed their share to the modernist revolution. But this phase ended soon with the transplantation of Tzara, Brauner and Fondane mainly to France; also with the symbolic suicide of Urmuz (in 1923). After 1924, with the absent Urmuz acting as a genuine "semaphore" for literary experimentation, a new wave of Romanian avant-gardists tried to pick up the scattered pieces and participate in a reconstruction of modern art in a post-Dada age. Finally, soon after the war, a third generation of Romanian avant-gardists made one last attempt at revitalizing the experimental scene. In their "Message Addressed to the International Surrealistic Movement" (1945), Gherasim Luca and Trost called for a new "revolution of the spirit" to replace the mere "verbal revolution" of their predecessors. A sense of urgency and bleak foreboding filled their message: only a year later, under the pressures of Stalinization, the Romanian historical avant-garde was forcefully dismantled. It barely had time to relocate some of its representatives (Eugen Ionesco, E. M. Cioran, Gherasim Luca, Isidore Isou, Paul Paun) in the center of the European (post)modernism.

Under "normal" circumstances the avant-garde periodically exhausts itself, or is detoured and absorbed by mainstream culture. If we add to this the fact that the avant-garde's capacity for "cyclic" recovery has been seriously impaired in the last twenty to thirty years, we have an explanation of—in Lyotard's words—the current "period of/artistic/slackening…. From every direction we are being urged to put an end to experimentation, in the arts and elsewhere." Where the "power assumes the name of a party, realism and its neoclassical complement triumph over the experimental avant-garde by slandering and banning it"; where "power is that of capital," "postmodern" eclecticism (a kind of "degree zero of contemporary general culture …") is substituted for the old avant-gardist radicalism.

But the case of the Romanian avant-garde can be called anything but "normal." To this day, the "historical" avant-garde has not been fully assimilated and canonized by Romanian critics. Its violent interruption in the fifties, before it could run a complete course, predictably enhanced its appeal in contemporary literature. Several generations of postwar Romanian writers have used the half-mythical pursuits of the earlier avant-gardists as "a necessary filter" in their own literary exploration. It is not, therefore, surprising to find Codrescu's American poetry connected to this fourth (utopian) cycle of the Romanian avant-garde. The title of his first book (reminiscent of Geo Dumitrescu's 1945 License to Fire Rifles), confessed to a symbolic continuity of intentions: after Tzara and Fondane, Ionesco and Gherasim Luca, here was another expatriate member of an "insomniac generation" (the first born in postwar Romania) trying to carry on that experimental legacy and stir the dormant waters of international postmodernism.

If genealogically Codrescu belongs to Romanian (European) avant-gardism, in language, thematics and overall preoccupations he is indisputably an American poet. As a perceptive reviewer wrote, "Codrescu's influences range from European poets (Tzara, Ponge, Eminescu, Lautreamont, Rimbaud, Villon, Cavafy) to American poets (Ashbery, Berrigan, Creeley, Spicer, etc.). His poetry has an international base, but the uniqueness of his voice is in his uses of the American idiom…. "Codrescu's main effort has been to relocate American surrealism at the intersection of two experimental traditions (European protosurrealism, and the Williams-New York School line of poetry); he has significantly expanded and enriched that intertextual space in American poetry which makes such a poetic dialogue possible.


As an aspiring Romanian poet in the sixties. Codrescu's secret dreams (shared with other members of his generation) were those of Poetic Subversion and Exile. These two ideas loomed large as myths: "In school we had whispered the names of our great exiles. They had replaced the smaller national heroes. The names of Tristan Tzara, Eugen Ionesco, Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran—sent shivers up our spines. For me, the meaning of their exile overshadowed by far the meaning of their creations…. Exile was the unifying idea and, in my mind, it assumed the proportions of a place." But what he was to find soon after his expatriation is that Exile is not a "vast/outer/territory" with "distinct boundaries," but a shifty, elusive country of the mind.

His predecessor in the mythical limbo "between statelessness and naturalization," Mircea Eliade, defined the exilic province as a decentered, dynamic world with the nostalgia of a center. But he also endowed it with a redeeming feature: "Wherever one is, there is a center of the world. As long as you are in that center, you are at home, you are truly in the real self and at the center of the cosmos. Exile helps you to understand that the world is never foreign to you once you have a central stance in it." What Eliade does not make clear enough is how one accedes to that central stance. Exilic experience endows one with an "extra cognizant," "extra territorial" perspective, but also leaves him in an unsettled tension. By definition the exile is a homo duplex, inhabiting one place and remembering or projecting another. Through the exilic "jump" (ex-salire), the artist comes to know otherness and strangeness, but his arduous task remains that of transforming a figure of rupture into one of connection. According to Eliade he can do this through myth and a unifying language: "In exile the road home lies through language, through dreams…."

But what language? An Ur-language of universally applicable symbols? The mother-tongue in which "one still dreams"? Or the adoptive idiom? These are questions that subtend much of Codrescu's poetry. Language-intercrossing and poetic myth are his keys to the "outland" of imagination. But they also serve to fill the void of his real exilic limbo. Unlike the orthodox avant-gardists, Codrescu has never tried to develop a language beyond languages, a kind of poetic esperanto like Khlebnikov's Zaoum idiom, Marinetti's "degree 4," Virgil Teodorescu's "leopard" language, or Isidor Isou's "lettrisme." Codrescu has sought home in a real poetic language, though one uncertainly balanced between native and foreign, rational and irrational, learned and unlearned. Ronald Sukenick has praised Codrescu's language achievement in the following terms: The History of the Growth of Heaven is another leap from the sinking ship of Newspeak into the life boat of the living word. What's interesting about this book is that it reads as if Codrescu is really beginning to write in a new language as though someone in the middle of a conversation started speaking in multi-colored bubbles instead of words." There remains, however, a tension between the new and old languages, or between the "diurnal" and "nocturnal" aspects of the poet's idiom: "The acquired language is permanently under the watch of my native tongue, like a prisoner in a cage. Lately, this new language has planned an escape to which I fully subscribe. It plans to get away in the middle of the night with most of my mind and never return. This piece of writing in the acquired language is part of the plan: while the native tongue is (right now!) beginning to translate it…." ("Bi-Lingual").

Codrescu's literature explores other language tensions as well. One is the incongruity between an imaginative poetic idiom and the debased "T.V. vernacular" of present-day culture (a theme provocatively addressed in his N. P. R. commentaries—recently collected in A Craving for Swan). Another is the tension inherent in all languages between signifiers and signifieds, those "breches" and "decalages du sens" that interested also the early surrealists. Without overstating the poet's capacity to bridge all these gaps, Codrescu still imagines (pace Derrida) a way back to the redeeming roots of language. Consider this splendid passage from his recent "Dear Masoch" (Comrade Past & Mister Present 7):

… No chilly languages, no translations
from chilly texts. No translators catching colds
from opening windows between languages, no
only real stammerings, true hollows where the tongues
stand in their cases heavy with the awkward honey
of the first spoken, the as-yet-unsaid….

The most perplexing gap, however, remains that between language and self, mask and identity, voice and silence. In Craving for Swan (39), Codrescu ironizes the exorcism of silence that goes on in this country: people drowning their anxieties in the drone of TVs or the noise of their own "voices that have taken on the eeriness of speaking machines." Yet he is equally suspicious of the postmodern celebration of silence, absence and self-cancellation. Today.

in psychoanalysis and other therapies, people pay for what
they are missing, but not in order to recover it, only to be
confirmed in their lack, to be reassured of the normality of
absence, of the utter popularity of the abyss, the sanctioned
nothingness, the triviality of...

(The entire section is 6165 words.)

John Krich (review date 10 January 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Premises as Pretense," in The New York Times Book Review, January 10, 1988, p. 17.

[In the following review, Krich gives mixed reviews of Monsieur Teste in America and Other Instances of Realism. He lauds Codrescu's mastery of American idiom, but faults his overuse of simile.]

"America can be taken for granted," counsels Andrei Codrescu near the outset of his latest prose flight. "The obvious is very serious about itself here." The point can hardly be argued in a country where morning papers carry headlines like "Study Reveals Unreality May Be Good for You." It is with healthy doses of such medicine that the Romanian-born poet seeks to treat his adopted...

(The entire section is 926 words.)

Stuart Klawans (review date 28 May 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Embarrassed Palefaces," in The Nation, Vol. 246, No. 21, May 28, 1988, pp. 756-60, 62.

[In the following review, Klawans criticizes the works featured in American Poetry Since 1970: Up Late for their unworldliness and absence of emotion, although he notes their wit and clever observation.]

Randall Jarrell once remarked that the poet in our time is like a maker of stone hand axes. That was forty years ago. From the vantage point of the 1980s, most poets would agree that Jarrell didn't know how good he had it. Contemporary poetry, according to the conventional wisdom, is that which goes unread. It is, however, argued over, and with a vehemence that...

(The entire section is 3342 words.)

Albert Mobilio (review date 9 August 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Pick a Peck of Poets," in Village Voice, Vol. XXXIII, No. 32, August 9, 1988, pp. 49, 53.

[In the following review, Mobilio faults American Poetry Since 1970: Up Late primarily for packing too many poets into too few pages, resulting in a poor presentation of the poets' individual voices.]

These are strange days for American verse. The community of poets has never been bigger or more professionally published, yet poetry has never been more neglected by serious readers. Consider the sheer volume of verse seeing print each year. There are tens of thousands of published poets in the U.S., and they vie for space in hundreds of university- and state-funded...

(The entire section is 2005 words.)

Alex Kozinski (review date 30 June 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Romania's Big Bamboozle," in The New York Times Book Review, June 30, 1991.

[In the following review, Kozinski commends Codrescu's The Hole in the Flag: A Romanian Exile's Story of Return and Revolution for its accurate description of Romania and its people during the 1989 revolt.]

Like the panorama of life in post-revolutionary Romania, which the poet and essayist Andrei Codrescu describes with both awe and revulsion, The Hole in the Flag is a work of great complexity and subtlety. For everyone who watched as the Romanian revolution unfolded, Mr. Codrescu provides a gripping political detective story.

Mr. Codrescu, a regular...

(The entire section is 843 words.)

Alfred Stepan (review date 9 October 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "In a Sultanistic State," in the Times Literary Supplement, No. 4671, October 9, 1992, p. 26.

[In the following review, Stepan states that the chief merit of Codrescu's The Hole in the Flag: A Romanian Exile's Story of Return and Revolution is its documentation of how myths are replaced by counter-myths.]

What do the current presidential and parliamentary elections in Romania tell us about the nature of its "transition" from communism, or, indeed, about the "revolution" of 1989?

To get a feeling of the elation, fear, confusion, uncertainty and disillusionment that surrounded the fall of Ceausescu in the winter of 1989, one couldn't do...

(The entire section is 1456 words.)

Francis X. Clines (review date 9 May 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "They See America Rolling," in The New York Times Book Review, May 9, 1993, pp. 1, 22.

[In the following review, Clines praises Road Scholar: Coast to Coast Late in the Century as full of "wit, discovery, and self-deprecation."]

In their separate careerings in time among American epiphanies, Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac went beyond self-concoction to achieve an originality that made it all look easy: hit the road, get to the core, bang us in the heart with words that access the routine beauty and pain of daily life. Their work remains so readable and so indelibly American that it's no wonder that fresh attempts at wandering the nation and mapping its...

(The entire section is 1111 words.)

Karen Stabiner (review date 9 May 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of Road Scholar: Coast to Coast Late in the Century, in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 9, 1993, p. 6.

[In the following review, Stabiner favorably reviews Codrescu's Road Scholar: Coast to Coast Late in the Century.]

National Public Radio commentator and poet Codrescu came to the United States from Romania when he was 19, in 1966, believing, among other things, that dogs in America carry pretzels on their tails (that, from his grandmother). He was quickly disabused of most of his preconceived ideas, but was not fully Americanized until 1990, when television producer Roger Weisberg asked him the question that would change his life: Would...

(The entire section is 211 words.)

Ileana Alexandra Orlich (review date Fall 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Song of My Emerging Self: The Poetry of Andrei Codrescu," in MELUS, Vol. 18, No. 3, Fall, 1993, pp. 33-40.

[In the following review, Orlich describes Codrescu's Comrade Past & Mister Present, the story of his self-integration into his adopted culture, as intensely personal and powerful.]

For almost thirty years, since 1966, Andrei Codrescu has lived in the United States, absorbed a new culture, published more than twenty books, taught American university students, and broadcast weekly essays on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" on the American scene or world events from a peculiar perspective and in accented English. Now that knowledge...

(The entire section is 2666 words.)

Kirkus Reviews (review date 15 April 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Blood Countess, in Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1995, pp. 487-88.

[The following review commends Codrescu's historical novel The Blood Countess, comparing it to the works of Anne Rice, Zoe Oldenbourg, and Marguerite Yourcenar.]

An expertly crafted first novel uncovers the roots of contemporary Eastern European carnage in the lurid story of a notorious 16th-century murderess.

Romanian-born poet, essayist, and NPR commentator Codrescu (Road Scholar, 1993, etc.) abandoned plans for a factual book about Elizabeth Bathory, his real-life ancestor, a beautiful Hungarian countess convicted and imprisoned for torturing...

(The entire section is 352 words.)

Nina Auerbach (review date 30 July 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Haunted in Hungary," in The New York Times Book Review, Vol. CXLIV, July 30, 1995, p. 9.

[In the following review, Auerbach faults Codrescu for his depiction of Elizabeth Bathory and other female characters as either virgins or vamps in The Blood Countess.]

In his buoyant 1993 film, Road Scholar, the Romanian expatriate Andrei Codrescu emulated the American odysseys of Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac. Stopping along the way west to scrutinize quaint national divinities, from hamburgers to crystals, Mr Codrescu, grinning in his red Cadillac, fulfilled his immigrant's pledge "We were done with the Old World, liberty was ours."

In his new...

(The entire section is 762 words.)

Bettina Drew (review date 6 August 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Mistress of Terror and Torture," in the Washington Post Book Review, Vol. XXV, No. 32, August 6, 1995, pp. 3, 10.

[In the following review, Drew lauds Codrescu's The Blood Countess for making comprehensible to the West the hatred and violence of modern Eastern Europe by exposing its bloody past.]

What makes Andrei Codrescu's voice on National Public Radio so distinctive is the way it mixes American vernacular with a Transylvanian accent so rich it conjures up sophisticated counts about to do evil in gloomy hilltop castles. Happily, his new novel skillfully exploits this cultural bilingualism. In it, Codrescu weaves the story of an infamous 16th-century...

(The entire section is 772 words.)

Robert L. McLaughlin (review date September 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Blood & Guts in Budapest," in American Book Review, Vol. 17, September, 1995, pp. 16, 23.

[In the following review, McLaughlin commends The Blood Countess for its historical foundation and commentary on current world events, but pans it for its repetition of themes, poor narrative technique, and sloppy treatment of details.]

Not far into The Blood Countess, Andrei Codrescu's new novel, it occurred to me that this book wants to be The Name of the Rose. Prominent intellectual combines history and mystery, past and present, to popularize complex ideas in the form of a can't-put-it-down page-turner. Indeed, there is much about the ideas in...

(The entire section is 1883 words.)

Kirkus Reviews (review date 1 June 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Dog with the Chip in His Neck: Essays from NPR and Elsewhere, in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. 64, June 1, 1996, pp. 797-98.

[The following review identifies Codrescu's best essays in this collection as those which deal with the most personal subjects.]

Prolific belletrist, novelist, and NPR commentator Codrescu offers his trademark benign-oddball perspective on a broad array of cultural topics in another scattershot collection.

Codrescu grew up in Communist Romania and came to America in 1966, and most of the essays here are either explicitly or implicitly about the experience of exile, whether linguistic, political, or...

(The entire section is 378 words.)