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SUMMER LIES

A thoughtful, stimulating collection.

Painful choices confront Schlink’s characters in the second story collection from the German author (The Weekend, 2010, etc.). 

They meet on vacation on Cape Cod. In "After the Season," the first of seven stories, Richard is a German immigrant, a flautist; Susan works for a foundation. He’s shocked to discover she’s filthy rich; Richard doesn’t like rich folks, but head-over-heels love sweeps him into a commitment to move in with her, though he’s loath to leave his gritty Manhattan neighborhood; these are his people. Richard is a plausible but not fully autonomous character in a very well-crafted story. Not quite so plausible is the protagonist of "The House in the Forest"; he too is a German immigrant, a novelist like his American wife. She’s successful, he’s not. They find an idyllic country hideaway in which to raise their little girl, away from the distractions of Manhattan; but how can the husband make their seclusion total? Credibility dissolves as his first act of vandalism propels him into madness. The most painful choice is faced by Thomas in "The Last Summer." The retired philosopher has inoperable bone cancer. Thomas will treat himself to a last summer with his family; when the pain becomes unbearable, he will take a lethal cocktail. His plan goes awry when his wife finds the bottle. Again, credibility suffers when she goes ballistic at a family gathering. Nina’s painful choice came during her youth ("The Journey to the South"). Should she leave her bourgeois family and prospective husband for the happy-go-lucky student she’s fallen for? She chose wrongly and now, a cranky old woman, is eaten up by regret. The fun story is "Stranger in the Night." The very proper Jakob is transfixed by the wild odyssey of his seatmate on a trans-Atlantic flight. Who could resist the story of a beautiful girlfriend, a swaggering sheikh, a suspicious death and five million euros? And now the stranger wants to borrow Jakob’s passport! 

A thoughtful, stimulating collection.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-90726-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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