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Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello & Stephen Colbert: Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not


Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not

Author: Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello & Stephen Colbert
Publisher: Hyperion

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The fake author of Wigfield is an amateur reporter named Russell Hokes, who piddles away his publisher's advance and attempts to cobble together a paean to a vanishing America in the place that least merits his attention. His target, Wigfield, is a stretch of roadside strip clubs and used-auto-parts shops masquerading as a town in order to collect the relocation money when a nearby dam is destroyed. The residents kill time in the interim by fostering grudges and fleecing (or occasionally flaying) passing truckers. Hokes tells their story in the style of pompous, ill-informed boobery familiar to fans of The Daily Show's satirical reportage, and he punctuates his narration with first-person accounts from the locals, who speak with the steady voice and confessional freedom of psychotics, or characters from postmodern sketch comedy. The color of the prose is unsurprising, given the book's real authors: The Daily Show's Stephen Colbert and his former Exit 57/Strangers With Candy cohorts Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris. To a degree, they feed each other's worst instincts. Wigfield has a self-satisfied, lazy air, as Hokes' anxiety about finishing the assignment (which leads to him writing long passages packed with synonyms) bleeds into the actual authors' weaknesses. After a while, the collection of grotesque Middle American character sketches goes around in circles, with each new Hokes interviewee (and even Hokes himself) revealing pretty much the same sense of delusion, and masking the same murderous rage. That said, many failings can be drowned out by laughter, and Wigfield is funny enough often enough to excuse its unrelenting atmosphere of cynicism, exhaustion, and disappointment. Colbert, Dinello, and Sedaris (aided by Todd Oldham's photographs of haunted faces and abandoned strip-mall wastelands) get good comic mileage out of people who put up a reasonable front, but can't keep their perversities from slipping through. As monotonous as Wigfield can be, the one note it hits is queasy and true, a hollow guffaw at the venality strangers can reveal with something like pride. The book is funny, but it also burns a little.