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DIANA

THE GODDESS WHO HUNTS ALONE

A roman Ö clef distinguished, so to speak, by feet of the samenot to mention other bodily parts lubriciously (if not lovingly) described. It's the first-person confession of a Mexican novelist who in all essentials resembles and is in no way distinguished from Carlos Fuentes (The Orange Tree, 1994, etc.). On New Year's Eve, 1968, then in his 40s, the novelist meets and falls helplessly in love with Diana Soren, a mercurial American film actress who began her career as an untrained ingÇnue playing Joan of Arc and followed that performance with one in a famous French New Wave melodramain other words, an unmistakable simulacrum of the late Jean Seberg. She takes Protagonist/Fuentes (hereafter, P/F) to her bed; impatiently endures his unwillingness to remain constantly at her beck and call (P/F is a dedicated novelist, after all); answers his guilt about not acting as the literary voice of his country with her own reservations about having portrayed a saint; and abandons him for higher causes and other lovers, including, most notably, the unnamed "leader of the Black Panthers." Other less fortunate notables, who are evoked or appear either as themselves or in thinly fictionalized disguise, include Seberg's husband, French novelist Romain Gary (here named Ivan Gravet); actors Lee J. Cobb and Clint Eastwood; filmmaker Luis Bunuel; novelists James Baldwin and William Styron; and even Tina Turner. Dead or alive, all should sue. The novel is a maudlin, exploitative exercise in self- absorption, redeemed only by a few edgy pages in which P/F frets more or less candidly about "the separation between the vital content of things and their literary expression in my work." Even so, P/F underestimates. Nowhere in Fuentes's otherwise respectable oeuvre is there evidence of such slackness, shapelessness, andlet's face itshamelessness. A peculiarly ungallant and unnecessary book. And unless it's simply a makeweight being used to fulfill a contractual obligation, it's hard to understand why Fuentes allowed it to be published.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-374-13903-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1995

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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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