LAID DEAD

With a formidable body of work behind him, DeLillo has earned the reflexive musings of this heady portrait of an obsessed and reclusive writer — a novelist haunted by the corruptions of an image-dominated world, and hunted by those who would deny him the eloquence of silence. Two early books have brought Bill Gray both Salinger-like acclaim and enough royalties to live as obscurely as Pynchon, which he does in upstate New York, with a younger assistant named Scott, an alter-ego who attends to all his worldly needs, and maintains the massive Gray archive, including the much rewritten work-in- progress. Unsure whether to publish again, Gray decides to give the world an image instead and poses for a Swedish photographer named Brita, whom Scott escorts to Gray's hideaway with all the caution of visiting an elusive terrorist. And that's the point. Gray has retreated into silence as a way of creating ``force'' and ``myth,'' but only the terrorist has the real power these days, the ability to shape and influence events, ``to make raids on the human consciousness.'' When the news satisfies our need for narrative, the terrorist becomes the most important player, and the artist has one other choice besides retreat: He can, like Warhol, feed our addiction to imagery. Or so Gray contends. But events conspire to draw him into the real world of terror when a planned public reading in London — in support of a hostage in Lebanon — unravels into a murkier plot, propelled by Gray himself. With a deadly liver ailment, he sets off for Beirut, the ``millennial image mill.'' But instead of affecting history in some small way, he manages to disappear in an image of total anonymity. Back home, Scott maintains the status quo with the help of his spacey girlfriend Karen, a former Moonie who understands that messianism is the key to survival, that the crowd is the engendering trope of our time. DeLillo's edgy characters speak ``the uninventable poetry, inside the pain, of what people say''; his talking heads murmur the mysteries of our age. For all its ``cool gloom,'' his latest novel stands in denial of Gray's doom-drenched semiotics: it's a luminous book, full of anger deflected into irony, with moments of hard- earned transcendence.

Pub Date: April 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-684-19302-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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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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