Meet the Kharkovs

by Nathan Hamm on 1/27/2005

NYT reviews Peter Lefcourt’s latest, The Manhattan Beach Project.

As “The Manhattan Beach Project” spirals into ever more screwball twists, Mr. Lefcourt’s joking sometimes becomes broad. This book is too smart to waste time on Viagra gags, although the combination of Viagra, a date and a restaurant with very slow valet parking certainly has comic possibilities. By the same token, Mr. Lefcourt probably coaxes too many easy laughs out of awkward accents and exotic place names. (“You see ‘Bride of Bishkek?’ You see ‘Tales of Timur Amir?’ “) But this material is funnier than it has any right to be, and so are the book’s gags about American popular culture leaching into faraway places. The Kharkovs’ lesbian daughter has learned all she knows about Madonna by watching MTV Turkey.

Mr. Lefcourt may have too much of his own television experience (writing and producing) to regard writing novels as his day job. And his string of books (including “The Dreyfus Affair,” “Di and I” and “Eleven Karens”) is uneven. But “The Manhattan Beach Project” is one of his best and funniest, with a keen grasp of how television operates. By the end of the book, “Warlord” has prompted enough of an international political crisis to require “sidebars, featuring retired Army generals with pointers in front of maps of Turkmenistan.”

The whole review is pretty interesting and I just ordered the book. I’ll be sure to give my own review (though it’ll come in at the end of a big backlog).

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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