A subtle literary success.

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THE MEDIUM OF DESIRE

A love story set in Virginia and nestled at the intersection of art and everyday life. 

Brett Bale is a popular, successful painter based in Richmond. His work is known both for its esoteric characterizations of human emotion (which one studio owner calls “wild, archetypal and primitive”) and elementary appeal (“So few lines. So little paint”). He works on commission, selling to B-list clients through his broker, Salina. Meanwhile, Olivia Martin lives in New York City and works for the notorious hedge fund McCann & Co. Her job is all-consuming, and she’s spent the past four years rotting away in a cubicle, hunched over Excel spreadsheets and dealing with her misogynist boss, Matthew Weiss. When she presents a new algorithm to the company’s executives, Matthew expectedly takes the credit. Finally pushed to her limit, Olivia quits—forgetting that she was forced to sign a noncompete agreement that prohibits her from working for another hedge fund for six months. At a loss, she moves back to Richmond to live with her parents while she figures things out. As a way to expand on his artist brand—and following Salina’s advice—Brett decides to take on an apprentice, who turns out to be Olivia. Studying with the acclaimed Brett reawakens her love for art that she thought she’d lost. In the process, Brett and Olivia fall in love, though not without a long period of hovering, innocent flirtation and momentous internal dialogue. McGlothlin’s (The Piratization of Daniel Barnes, 2018) second novel is a careful study of the effect of a hermetic artistic practice as well as the impact of burning out at an overwhelmingly demanding job. Although some of the dialogue comes off as highfalutin, with its grandiose ruminations on art (“form is everything….The building we stand in is form, originally outlined in an architect’s blueprints….All for a specific purpose, to attain a desired effect”). However, the author creates highly believable characters amid the sobering realism. He compellingly depicts Brett and Olivia’s relationship, constantly questioning the role of art in everyday life, the function of the artist within society, and the place that love occupies in this process.

A subtle literary success.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9890488-9-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Mountainlion Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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