Magisterial: an epic that outdoes Danielewski, Vollmann, Stephenson, and other worldbuilders in vision and depth.

JERUSALEM

Mind-meld James Michener, Charles Dickens, and Stephen King and you'll approach the territory the endlessly inventive Moore stakes out in his most magnum of magna opera.

Moore, the influential conjurer of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and other dark graphic masterpieces, seeks here to capture the gritty, sweaty demimonde of Northampton, England, between covers. It’s the Northampton of the wrong side of the tracks, a place where it’s necessary to ration the coins in one’s pocket carefully, staying in of an evening so as not to have to “go through the humiliating pantomime of taking charity” from someone with not much more in the way of cash to spare. Alma Warren, her name the first words in the book, is just 5 years old when we meet her, thrust into a bewildering world among people who speak a language doomed in the face of globalism: “’E ain’t gunner urcha,” says her mother of a fellow cowled and masked like a “phantom burglar” (shades of V), “un 'e dun’t see people very orften. Goo on in un say 'ello or else 'e’ll think we’re rude.” In this gloomy milieu of wet cobblestone streets and decaying buildings, Alma and her kin and acquaintances serve as focal points and guides. Moore constructs a world seen from many different points of view, from wizened old masked men to reticent, fearful children and not much more confident adults in search of some measure of happiness, or at least a little sex (“He has more sperm in him than he knows what to do with and the planet circling about his axis seems to share the same promiscuous excitement”). Many storylines dance through Moore’s pages as he walks through those humid streets, ranging among voices and moods, turning here to Joycean stream-of-consciousness and there to Eliot-ian poetry (“Their gait resembling the Lambeth Walk/While in the upper corners of the room/Are gruff, gesticulating little men”), but in the end forging a style unlike any other.

Magisterial: an epic that outdoes Danielewski, Vollmann, Stephenson, and other worldbuilders in vision and depth.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63149-134-4

Page Count: 1280

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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