Multiple readings could perhaps yield more insight—not an onerous task since this is one of the more beautiful books in...


The brilliant minds of today and yesteryear crowd into the exquisitely designed pages of this odd folly of an art novel.

Seeing no reason to leave well enough alone, globetrotting Ivy League jeweler Zucker continues the fictional experiment he first assayed in the much-ballyhooed Blue (2000). Here, Green has a character of sorts in the figure of Abraham Talcott, a gem merchant in Greenwich Village who leads a dismally uninteresting life. Fortunately, Zucker is using Tal only as the most slender of threads upon which to hang his obsessive themes. For this is no ordinary story. Tal’s occupies only a small portion of each right-hand page. The remainder is taken up by commentaries and quotations that, at first blush, seem to have only the most tangential relationship with Tal’s story. Additionally, every left-hand page in this coffeetable-sized volume is entirely taken up by a reproduction of a painting, photograph, or design. The structure of Green is intentionally Talmudic, though many of its themes are far more secular. Meantime, the cast of characters Zucker calls upon for his commentaries and imagery is a pleasing one: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cézanne, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Black Elk, lots and lots of Bob Dylan, and a host of rabbis and religious scholars. Any attempt at a straight reading is quickly rebuffed, for the story of Tal, his acquaintances and musings, is almost aggressively noninvolving. As a result, the reader’s eye turns to the pictures—lush imagery from Vermeer, Pollock, and Blake—and all those commentaries crowding each page. The babble of voices is obviously meant to be taken from multiple directions, like the facets of a gem. But why? What is the reader supposed to get out of this experience besides a desire to listen to Bob Dylan and maybe read up on their Fitzgerald?

Multiple readings could perhaps yield more insight—not an onerous task since this is one of the more beautiful books in recent memory—but it’s difficult to regard Green as anything more than a curio.

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-58567-174-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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