I CAN'T WAIT ON GOD

The author of two previous novels (Billy, 1993; Holly, 1995) and a Vietnam memoir (Patches of Fire, 1997) returns to the Homewood section of Pittsburgh—familiar also to readers of John Edgar Wideman—for this tale of jazz, violence, and ghetto- porch culture. Panoramic in scope, and full of secondary characters, this Old-School’style narrative never fully coheres, but creates an indelible portrait of a back-alley neighborhood. Here, French captures the —hum— of —hush talk— that spreads like fire when a local hustler is robbed, gutted and thrown into the high weeds near the train tracks. Though the brutal white cops turn the community upside down, the regular folk know the culprits right away. Jeremiah Henderson, and his beautiful, high-yellow girlfriend, Willet Mercer, dream of New York City, and consider turning Willet out as a prostitute. When the much disliked Tommy Moses tries testing her, she’s so disgusted that she slices him up. With Tommy’s pocketful of cash, and his big car, they head first to North Carolina, where Willet hopes to see the son she abandoned at childbirth, who lives with her mother. Meanwhile, back in Homewood, the locals go about their routines: elderly Mr. Allen surveys the scene from his porch, while the women pass news over the fences; Dicky Bird with his pushcart and drunk Bill Lovitt pick junk along the roadside; and Mack Jack, a tall and brooding sax player, roams the streets, living inside the sounds, and bedding a few local women. The novel cuts back and forth between Mack Jack’s poetic interior life and Jeremiah and Willet on the road, creating a false expectation of some sort of convergence, but ends instead all too abruptly. Lots of set pieces reveal French’s narrative muscle, though the drug and jazz scenes can—t beat the recently rediscovered period fictions of Clarence Cooper or Herbert Simmons.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-48364-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

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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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