Sportswriter Boyd (The Great American Baseball Card Book, etc.) recounts the story of how professional gamblers fixed the Black Sox series. Boyd's twist on this familiar material is to make the players peripheral to the gamblers. His narrator, Joseph ``Sport'' Sullivan, a small-time chiseler with dreams he's never acted on, spends a hundred pages peddling the fix to gambling kingpin Arnold Rothstein, who'll supply the payoff money, and to eight of the players, who'll throw the games. In effect, then, Sport is nobody, just a man with an idea that takes on a life of its own. In tracking the fate of Sport's dream of the perfect scam, Boyd shoves everything and everyone else offstage- -the intrigues and double-crosses that drive down the odds on Cincinnati before Sport can get his money down, the obligatory historical cameos (Ring Lardner, George M. Cohan, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, etc.), and the Series itself (which flashes by in a blur as Sport, accompanied by a distant pickup named Rose, scurries to compound his wagers after each game). The payoff comes in the long, memorably dreary epilogue, as Sport, rich but terminally aimless, drifts from Chicago to California to New York and Boston trying to spend his money and set up another score on his own: a Hollywood picture, a bicycle race, a prizefight, another Series. But the price for these powerfully depressive chapters is high: everybody but sententious Sport (who warns aptly of moments ``so ripe with contrary significance that I might easily allegorize them out of existence'') passes by shrouded in fog. Boyd is no E. L. Doctorow or F. Scott Fitzgerald; he may remind you more of your garrulous Uncle Bill. Even so, this is a genuinely original retake on one of the most compelling American fables.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1991

ISBN: 0-393-03020-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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