Erudite tales that should prompt readers, just like the characters, to contemplate existentially.


Dark Matters: Seven Variations on a Theme

A debut collection of seven stories follows the struggle of ordinary characters facing extraordinary circumstances.

Wilma Watts is happy in her small Wisconsin town, waitressing and spending evenings at home with her dog in “Wilma and Harry.” But something happens that will alter everything for her, a change that Wilma may not be prepared to handle. Characters throughout the book are much the same, resigned to complacency that ultimately won’t last. Terry Addams of “Sweet Liberty” is happy with his unattached existence, bouncing from port to port, until he realizes in Central America that he may be a scapegoat for murder. In “Pilgrimage: A Modern Parable,” English teacher Dante McCullough’s annual trip to pay respects to his late mentor leads the unbeliever to question the notion of a soul and salvation. While there’s a major decision for each character to make, not every story reveals the final choice or its consequence. What, for example, will Wallace Wiggins do in “Embarrassment of Riches: A Romance”? Newly rich after selling his plumbing business, Wallace craves the freedom enjoyed by the wealthy while also being torn between potential love for Eunice Ellis and lust for Eunice’s daughter Linda. Similarly, the titular mountain recluse in “What Maisie Knew” feels she should help Jimmy, a man in need—and very possibly a murderer. The stories can occasionally wallow in gloom but have their share of cheerful moments. Freddie, for one, was an apparently hapless, depressed alcoholic when the war veteran died in the snow in “Rain.” But Arthur realizes he might not have known his little brother once a posthumous search through Freddie’s attic uncovers poetry and love letters. The best story is also the collection’s finale, “The Master.” Oliver Eiger, a schoolmaster at prep school St. Swithin’s, truly appreciates his stellar position at home and work. His jubilance is nevertheless shattered when the headmaster convinces him to give an affluent businessman’s son a slightly better grade and Eiger learns that his wife, Brooke, may be cheating on him. It ends the book on a high, a story more amusing than bitter that adds a cynical spin to the title.

Erudite tales that should prompt readers, just like the characters, to contemplate existentially.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-941573-09-9

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Damianos Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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