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INEZ

“What was there between them,” Fuentes’s narrator asks, “that thwarted the continuation of what had been and prevented the...

The power of music, and the passions aroused by the artistic impulse, are given inexplicably murky expression in this very odd, somewhat disappointing latest from Fuentes (The Years with Laura Díaz, 2000, etc.).

The first of two juxtaposed narratives (and, thankfully, the longer) charts the turbulent relationship between French symphony conductor Gabriel Atlan-Ferrara and Mexican diva “Inez Prada” (née Inés Rosenzweig), who first meet when she blithely disrupts his preparations for a London appearance. Over the years, they collaborate as “lovers with a dual dynamic in bed and onstage,” but remain essentially apart, she drifting in and out of love and marriage, he dancing to the tunes composed by memories of a lost “brother companion” (his physical and temperamental opposite) and the horrors of the Holocaust, which he schemes to incorporate into performances of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. Whenever Gabriel and Inez meet, there are sure to be portentous observations about the nature and meaning of music, art, and love—but these are David Mamet–like nuggets of colloquialism compared with the parallel story of “the first” man and woman on earth, a morbidly ingenuous pair of cavedwellers and deer hunters whose musings sound like a Jean Auel potboiler entrusted to the editorship of C.P. Snow. There is the seed of a compelling story here, in the perspective of the 93-year-old maestro looking backward on a life defined by artistic and personal strategies and compromises—but, for whatever reason, Fuentes didn’t write that novel.

“What was there between them,” Fuentes’s narrator asks, “that thwarted the continuation of what had been and prevented the occurrence of what never was?” If that makes sense to you, you’ll probably enjoy Inez.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-17553-5

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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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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