1988

The latest entry in the Gen-X slacker sweepstakes comes from Australia, and adds an appropriate down-under twist to the familiar Gen-X fondness for doing nothing and writing about it. The title refers to the year of Australia's Bicentennial, a much hyped event that would of course turn a young man's fancy to rebellion. In '80s terms, rebellion means retreating into apathy and oblivion. The narrator of this angst-filled saga is Gordon Buchanan (also the protagonist of McGahan's first novel, Praise, 1993), a college dropout and would-be writer who lumbers along in Brisbane as a barman living in a crumbling house with lots of Chinese exchange students. He suffers, naturally, from ``a weakness of character, a poor diet, and alcohol.'' No surprise, given his low-energy existence and his sexual confusion—all de rigueur in the slacker profile. Things move along (sort of) when Gordon accepts the offer of an acquaintance to accompany him for six months to the outback. Together, they'll man a weather station in the remote North country, where their only companions will be a drunk and bitter Park Ranger, a dog, and a couple of resentful Aborigines, who now control the land. Completely unprepared for the profound isolation of Cape Don, Gordon and his buddy, Wayne, an aspiring artist, assume they'll take the opportunity to get creative. Instead, they drink, smoke pot, screw up their simple job responsibilities, and, of course, grow to hate each other. Then a week alone on the Cape pushes Gordon close to madness. A visit from a ranger who truly appreciates the wonders of remote Australia reminds the two Brisbane boys of what serious losers they are. This anti-romance of the road and of primitive culture suffers from the obvious problems of re-creating boredom—how do you do it without being boring? What's acclaimed as a fresh voice from down under sounds woefully stale up here.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15043-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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