A handful of real moments, presented with bite and wit.

WILLFUL CREATURES

STORIES

Second story collection from a keen stylist (The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, 1998) intent on rewriting the grim fable of modern life.

Fifteen pieces explore the startling and often sadistic relationships among people who love each other, all with a stylistic whiff of Lydia Davis or Rick Moody. “Death Watch,” while first, gives an off-putting indication of the author’s chilly reserve by presenting the premise that “Ten men go to ten doctors” and then filling in the blanks. More typical of this sleek collection is “Off,” about a young woman at a party whose goal is to kiss three men, each with a different color hair. Wearing her slinky silver dress that makes the hostess run for more lipstick and jewelry, the narrator doesn’t bank on the presence of a recent boyfriend at the party, Adam, who recognizes her nutty play for attention and calls her on it. A troubling sadistic streak reveals itself cleanly in “End of the Line,” about a man who goes to the pet store and ends up buying a little man in a cage. The little man has been captured, like a slave, and taken away from his family, and, bit by bit, the large tyrant tortures his pet out of his terrible inability to feel human sympathy. Another sadistic character is the eponymous “Motherfucker” who beds women “of every size and shape in different cities.” He gradually seduces a famous actress in L.A., using her vulnerability to his advantage, then never calls her again, so that in her next movies she grows “luminous in her seriousness” and is finally memorable. Several of the stories deal with the cruelty of the girl adolescent. In “Jinx,” for example, two high-schoolers betray each other over a cute boy, and the narrator in “Debbieland,” once a member of a clique that beat up the vulnerable girl Debbie, lives to rue her action.

A handful of real moments, presented with bite and wit.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-50113-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2005

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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