THE ORANGE TREE

Fuentes continues to interpret the clash between the Old and New Worlds with dazzling imaginative insight in five novellas that span a spectrum of eras and individuals. Each story features an orange tree, the symbolic presence of Spain, brought by the Moors to Spain and then later carried by the Conquistadors to Mexico. "Could any image verify a Spaniard's identity better than the sight of a man eating an orange?" asks the dead narrator of the first novella, The Two Shores, which is as much an investigation of the power of language as an interpretation of the Spanish conquest. In it the dead man recalls how, after being shipwrecked, he had lived among the natives, learned their language, and planted an orange tree. He is found by Cortes, who employs him as a translator until he is supplanted by Cortes' mistress, a Mayan. In The Sons of the Conquistadors, two heirs of Cortes dispute the interpretation of their father's will, which they regard as promising redress to the Mayans. "I'm sick of the spectacle of death...I don't understand how a nation is born," observes the one exiled to Spain. The Two Numantias is on one level a history of the Roman conquest of Spain, on another a meditation on the power of language, which "constructs the work of art." In Apollo and the Whores, an aging Hollywood actor, the only American to win an Oscar for a role in a foreign film, comes to Acapulco, and on a macabre ship of whores, finds in death his greatest role. The fifth novella, The Two Americas, is a satirical reworking of Columbus' search for the Indies, but here he finds paradise and never leaves until forced out by entrepreneurs of the future seeking a pristine spot in a polluted world. Exuberantly imaginative and unabashedly sensual, Fuentes, even when the conceits seem strained, never fails to entertain, instruct — and, yes, provoke.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-374-22683-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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