With a sharp feel for the music and the sharks that feed on it, all this first novel lacks are characters that transcend...

JAM

Upbeat and hip, bassist/journalist Goldsher’s debut features a pair of jazz kids who grow up talented and tight, only to be undone by the big bad music business after crossing over and rocketing to the top of the pop charts.

Ten-year-old jazz geek Frank is dying to be a cool musician like the uncompromising jazzmen who come to record in the basement studio Dad built for his Flat Five label. But Frank’s not exactly a natural drummer, and he’s just slogging along when a new neighbor hears him play and joins him. Though James is only 11, he can already blow anything with brass on it as if he were to the manner born, and he and Frank are soon grooving together in and out of the studio. Best friends through high school, although in temperament as different as night and day, both decide to let music be their future and share an apartment in nearby Chicago while they get their act together. A first gig turns into a regular one for the duo, then they find a bass player and a pianist. Their quartet, Hovercraft, begins to take off. Frank even gets a girl—the same one who wouldn’t go out with him in high school. Some crossover tunes, a new venue, and a friendly music critic bring them to the eye of a major label’s talent scout, who woos and signs them in a heartbeat. Suddenly, the band finds itself grooving to the beat of a different drummer. James, now “Jam” and sporting a new look, is promoted as the star in the music video and on tour. Frank had sensed that star quality all along, but when his formerly modest best buddy begins to believe the hype, the end of a beautiful friendship is nigh.

With a sharp feel for the music and the sharks that feed on it, all this first novel lacks are characters that transcend caricature.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-57962-040-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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