BONE MUSIC

A passel of bluesmen, both living and dead, and a thrice-born voodoo child combat demons and bad religion in horror writer Rodgers's hardcover debut. The premise has promise: Knit the lives of some celebrated blues travelersRobert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbellyinto the legends of Hoodoo Voodoo, which is regular voodoo's bloodlust, hell-and-damnation side. Toss in the devil girl; add a baffled male character who spends most of his time running around with a resurrectedjump back!Elvis Presley, now a pretender to the priesthood of Hoodoo Doctors (i.e., bluesmen), who've fallen on tough times (he's a filth-encrusted hobo when we meet him); and then send the entire unholy cast down to New Orleans, where a cataclysm of apocalyptic proportions is underway. The Big Easy is crumbling while demons run amok through the streets because Robert Johnson, in his vast vanity, sang a song called ``Judgment Day'' that put a crack in the ``Eye of the World.'' With the natural order of good and evil upset, Johnson is raised from the dead as a demi-being and given the opportunity to right the ills of his arrogance (no bluesman is supposed to sing ``Judgment Day'' until the Rapture at the end of the world). After a while, it begins to look as if devil child Lisa's mother, Emma, is Robert Johnson's daughter, a suggestive affinity that the narrative's slide-around time structure (``Greenville, Mississippi: 1938''; ``Hell: Timeless'') leaves unclear. Before the final battle, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Furry Lewis, and Tampa Red figure out what's up and rush in to join the party, enabling Rodgers to squeeze into his yarn nearly every notable bluesman who ever picked up a guitar. The delivery, in a rumbling Delta baritone, is convincing; the rest is overwrought and mostly unscary.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-681-10086-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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