THE NOVEL

LANGUAGE AND NARRATIVE FROM CERVANTES TO CALVINO

A collection of warmed-over, postmodern theorizing pieces on the centrality and self-consciousness of language in novels past and present. Echoing a view common to contemporary novelists and literary theorists, Brink (Imaginings of Sand, 1996, etc.), himself a distinguished South African writer and academic, views literature not so much as a historical progression, but, to use E.M. Forster’s figuration, a group of writers in the same room, occasionally looking over each others’ shoulders. His not entirely original spin on this is that literature—even a 500-year-book like Don Quixote—has always been deeply concerned with and informed by language. In other words, all novels are at heart postmodern. Brink’s deconstructionist tendencies, however, are somewhat tempered by existentialist, and even heroic, leanings: “Language is an attempt, as doomed as it is indispensable, to . . . correct silence—even if it is known beforehand that silence is incorrigible.” In the 15 books he examines, including Emma, Middlemarch, The Trial, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, Brink takes to his task with all the callow enthusiasm of a clever undergraduate, larding his argument with all the canonical authorities, hounding the text, heaping high his arguments on shallow foundations. But he rarely conveys his love for the work at hand. His analyses often read more like a clinical diagnosis of an unpleasant disease. Perhaps this is an inevitable result of using a book/text/words to argue for the “final meaninglessness of language.” South African academia tends to be years behind the West, and it shows painfully here. Still, one can only wonder why a respected author would spend time and effort on such a stultifying and ultimately absurd effort.

Pub Date: April 6, 1998

ISBN: 0-8137-1330-0

Page Count: 388

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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