A well-intentioned experiment that’s hobbled by its longueurs.

A HISTORY OF MONEY

A man recalls his past through the filter of money—often ill-gotten or badly spent—in this inventive if tangled tale.

The protagonist of this second translated novel by Argentine writer Pauls (The Past, 2003) opens his story at age 14, when he witnessed the funeral of a captain of industry who died in a helicopter crash under mysterious circumstances. The man was a family friend, but the narrator here and elsewhere isn’t interested so much in intimacies and relationships as financial connections: as he drills deeper into his past, he ponders the dead man’s attaché case full of cash, his father’s lifelong gambling habit, his mother’s ineptitude with money, and his own bad investment in a money pit. “Ponder” is the operative term here: Pauls writes in a recursive style built on long sentences with subclauses that aspire to Jamesian girth and gravitas. Credit Pauls for a rhetorical command that keeps these sentences from collapsing (and translator Robins for successfully preserving their integrity). At its best, the strategy conveys the gnarled and interior mental state that such financial fixation produces (in the early sections, the protagonist obsesses over the dead man’s irritating crostini-crunching); at its worst, and too often, it’s simply digressive, overexpanded navel-gazing. That’s all the more frustrating because buried under Pauls’ thickets of prose is a pointed commentary on the fragility of money and the oppressive Argentine politics of the 1960s and '70s. And Pauls can sensitively render the way money both bound and disconnected the novel's hero from his divorced parents. But when it comes time to bring the story to a strong emotional finish, the impact of the climax is overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the prose; though short as a novella, it’s dense as an epic but without the widescreen effects.

A well-intentioned experiment that’s hobbled by its longueurs.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61219-423-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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