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NO ONE BELONGS HERE MORE THAN YOU

STORIES

A smart, original collection.

An accomplished debut collection of 16 stories, simultaneously bizarre and achingly familiar.

July wrote, directed and starred in the indie film Me and You and Everyone We Know, and the same slightly anguished humor informs these stories, peopled by misfits and loners not quite apprised of their own lowly status. The characters interact tentatively, inappropriately. They are dangerously lonesome people (despite their naïve attempts to connect) who have a lot of awkward sex. In “The Sister,” an old bachelor is fixed up by fellow factory worker Victor. Victor’s sister Blanca is always just out of sight, misses dates, becomes the stuff of mythology between the two men—until it becomes clear on a drugged-out night what Victor’s intentions really are. The longest of the collection, “Something That Needs Nothing,” follows two lesbians after high-school graduation as they run away to Portland, Ore. There they rent a cockroach-infested studio and try to find work, preferably one servicing an older woman willing to support them. Things don’t work out quite so dreamily, as one girl abandons the other to earn a living at Mr. Peeps Adult Video Store and More. “Mon Plaisir” traces a couple’s decline from passionless (including some of the saddest sex possible—he “nurses” her while she masturbates) to mute, as they find they like each other more when they get work as extras in a movie. There are a number of evocative short pieces—a woman teaches some seniors how to swim, a teacher believes her teenage poltergeist lover has taken the form of one of her Special Ed students, a woman who has had a port-stain birthmark removed from her face wonders if her husband would love her if she still had it. The stories have an otherworldly quality, but instead of being fantastical, they are emblematic of a modern loneliness in which the boundaries of normal behavior become useless, where the best that can be hoped for is a kind of aggressive voyeurism.

A smart, original collection.

Pub Date: May 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-7432-9939-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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ABSOLUTE POWER

The mother of all presidential cover-ups is the centerpiece gimmick in this far-fetched thriller from first-novelist Baldacci, a Washington-based attorney. In the dead of night, while burgling an exurban Virginia mansion, career criminal Luther Whitney is forced to conceal himself in a walk-in closet when Christine Sullivan, the lady of the house, arrives in the bedroom he's ransacking with none other than Alan Richmond, President of the US. Through the one-way mirror, Luther watches the drunken couple engage in a bout of rough sex that gets out of hand, ending only when two Secret Service men respond to the Chief Executive's cries of distress and gun down the letter-opener-wielding Christy. Gloria Russell, Richmond's vaultingly ambitious chief of staff, orders the scene rigged to look like a break-in and departs with the still befuddled President, leaving Christy's corpse to be discovered at another time. Luther makes tracks as well, though not before being spotted on the run by agents from the bodyguard detail. Aware that he's shortened his life expectancy, Luther retains trusted friend Jack Graham, a former public defender, but doesn't tell him the whole story. When Luther's slain before he can be arraigned for Christy's murder, Jack concludes he's the designated fall guy in a major scandal. Meanwhile, little Gloria (together with two Secret Service shooters) hopes to erase all tracks that might lead to the White House. But the late Luther seems to have outsmarted her in advance with recurrent demands for hush money. The body count rises as Gloria's attack dogs and Jack search for the evidence cunning Luther's left to incriminate not only a venal Alan Richmond but his homicidal deputies. The not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper climax provides an unsurprising answer to the question of whether a US president can get away with murder. For all its arresting premise, an overblown and tedious tale of capital sins. (Film rights to Castle Rock; Book-of-the-Month selection)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-51996-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE SECRET HISTORY

The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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