GOODBYE, FRIENDS

The best of these 11 stories about contemporary women involve adolescent rebellion and resentment over the disposition of a will. The others are mostly predictable and flat. The title piece, about a social affair that takes place on Fifth Avenue, is flat and tedious, as is ``Social Security,'' set at a dinner party, although it deals more effectively with the corporate elite by gently satirizing Arthur and Gwen, the ``number one corporate wife.'' Phillips hits her stride in a few of the later stories: ``Dancing in Space,'' in which a 1969 adolescent starts holy hell in her family because they won't let her go to Woodstock; ``Getting the Blues,'' about a poet who meets a fan at the beach and learns to fish before giving up both the fishing and her new but quickly-turning-sour friendship to get back to her poetry; and ``We, the Youthful,'' set in 1986 (against the backdrop of the space shuttle explosion) at a funeral for Fanny and its acrimonious aftermath involving a family divided between those Fanny left money to and those she didn't. ``Freud Speaks'' is Phillips's mostly successful stab at satire: Buck, an editor, and Billie, a would-be writer, participate in a fiction workshop with a celebrity writer and don't get their money's worth. The other stories try to play off social expectations or family duty against individuality, but neither style nor characters are rendered sharply enough to be memorable. Two of these have been published in small literary magazines; the whole, however, is finally disappointing and merely competent- -neither original nor surprising enough to be quite ready for prime time.

Pub Date: June 8, 1993

ISBN: 1-882593-01-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Bridge Works

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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