A celebration of the dysfunctional that will keep readers turning pages.

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WISH FOR AMNESIA

A TALE ABOUT A FAMILY, AND TIME AND ART AND SCIENCE, RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY AND CURRENT EVENTS

The latest offering from conceptual artist, writer, and performer Rosenthal (Soul & Psyche, 1998, etc.) is a satirical, fantastical, and philosophical novel, illustrated with surreal photographs.

Readers begin the story with Jack Rubin, a messianic figure who has unbelievable charisma, even as a graduate student. But he’s also at least mildly schizophrenic (hearing “The Voice of the Petty Accuser”) and cares much more for his ideas and ideals than for real people. He aims to usher in a perfect world or die trying. The story then adds in his girlfriend, Beatrice Stregasanta Madregiore, a blind African-American conceptual artist (specializing in “Avant-Conceptualism…in large scale public projects and theatrical events”) with fiercely devoted students. She eventually marries Jack off to one of those students, the seriously disturbed Caroline Klein. Over the course of the story, set from 1968 to 1985, Jack and Caroline marry and beget a daughter, Jewel Marie Rubin; Jack becomes world-renowned and eventually the United Nations’ secretary-general; and Caroline, high and hysterical most of the time, has a serious car accident, scarring Jewel horribly (and Jack urges against her getting plastic surgery). Beatrice, Jewel’s godmother, takes Jewel to Rome, her spiritual retreat, and contemplates seducing her. Also in Rome, there’s Toto, a local cab driver, schemer, kidnapper, and autograph hound who picks up the two women before Beatrice experiences an apparent miracle. Later, Jack, flying into the same city, faces a tragedy of his own in the DaVinci Airport. These are the major pivot points for the plot, and Rosenthal, a very clever writer, molds it all into an addictive story. Her chapters are mostly short with quirky titles (such as “Caroline Parks Car and Walks Back Alone”), and they often act as stand-alone narrative disquisitions. We see the world sometimes through Jack’s eyes, sometimes through Caroline’s, Beatrice’s, or Toto’s, and most rivetingly, through Jewel’s. Caroline behaves monstrously to poor Jewel, but readers will find that they can’t take their eyes away. They’ll also sometimes wonder what’s real and what’s not—and exactly what kind of magic might be at work.

A celebration of the dysfunctional that will keep readers turning pages.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-937739-92-8

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Deadly Chaps Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A perfectly balanced portrait of the human condition, encompassing plenty of anger, cruelty and loss without ever losing...

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  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

OLIVE KITTERIDGE

A NOVEL IN STORIES

The abrasive, vulnerable title character sometimes stands center stage, sometimes plays a supporting role in these 13 sharply observed dramas of small-town life from Strout (Abide with Me, 2006, etc.).

Olive Kitteridge certainly makes a formidable contrast with her gentle, quietly cheerful husband Henry from the moment we meet them both in “Pharmacy,” which introduces us to several other denizens of Crosby, Maine. Though she was a math teacher before she and Henry retired, she’s not exactly patient with shy young people—or anyone else. Yet she brusquely comforts suicidal Kevin Coulson in “Incoming Tide” with the news that her father, like Kevin’s mother, killed himself. And she does her best to help anorexic Nina in “Starving,” though Olive knows that the troubled girl is not the only person in Crosby hungry for love. Children disappoint, spouses are unfaithful and almost everyone is lonely at least some of the time in Strout’s rueful tales. The Kitteridges’ son Christopher marries, moves to California and divorces, but he doesn’t come home to the house his parents built for him, causing deep resentments to fester around the borders of Olive’s carefully tended garden. Tensions simmer in all the families here; even the genuinely loving couple in “Winter Concert” has a painful betrayal in its past. References to Iraq and 9/11 provide a somber context, but the real dangers here are personal: aging, the loss of love, the imminence of death. Nonetheless, Strout’s sensitive insights and luminous prose affirm life’s pleasures, as elderly, widowed Olive thinks, “It baffled her, the world. She did not want to leave it yet.”

A perfectly balanced portrait of the human condition, encompassing plenty of anger, cruelty and loss without ever losing sight of the equally powerful presences of tenderness, shared pursuits and lifelong loyalty.

Pub Date: April 15, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6208-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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