A sprawling, nearly plotless novel: Hannah shows quite authoritatively that he’s still the master of his craft. The...


The first outing in a decade from the great southern roustabout (Never Die, 1991, etc.) goes on a long tear through the lives of a motley crew of misfits living around a giant lake in the backwoods of Mississippi.

Hannah kicks it off on a raging blast of language and keeps winging higher and higher. The prologue is a standalone bit about a ramshackle roadhouse where men can buy bait, booze, and some under-the-counter pornography, and where the amenities are definitely lacking: “All this the parcels of its charm.” There’s little reason for this piece other than to establish the well-stocked lake as the central character of Hannah’s careening ode to those whose lives keep coming back to it. Among them are: Byron Egan, a onetime biker and addict turned tattooed preacher; Melanie, a 71-year-old widow with a patrician bearing that keeps heads turning—mostly, she stands by her window: “She watched for men like a teenager. She watched for wildlife like a child”; and Raymond, a disgraced ex-doctor who plays the saxophone in his wife’s band at a nearby casino. And then there’s the crazy couple on the other side of the lake who once tried to kill each other but now, in their post-traumatic dementia, run a camp for orphans. Lighting a match under everyone is Man Mortimer, a hustler and gigolo who hunts for women who’ve given up hope and recruits them for his rolling whorehouses: luxury SUVs with fogged windows and deluxe stereo systems. With hardly any more provocation than anyone else here (in true southern-gothic tradition, surreal violence flares up quite often in these pages), Mortimer goes on a random crime spree of nonlethal knifings that leaves everyone baffled, but ultimately not all that concerned.

A sprawling, nearly plotless novel: Hannah shows quite authoritatively that he’s still the master of his craft. The manufactured eccentricity of some of his recent short stories is absent here, but not his love of characters and language. A masterwork of southern beat terror gospel.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87113-811-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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