THE BLUEBIRD CAFE

A first novel from Australian writer Bird about a Tasmanian town, its inhabitants, and a replica of a town built under a glass dome: a delightful fable whose parts fit together with the integrity of a Joseph Cornell miniature. Reality and fantasy meet in this tale set in Copperfield, a little bush town that turns ghostly but is rebuilt under a glass dome by The Best People as the Historic Museum Village—''the Disneyland of the Antarctic.'' In 1985, Bedrock Mean is the only inhabitant of the original town (as opposed to the replica). She's the mother of Lovelygod, a midget-child born in 1960 who disappeared in 1970 and has never been found—and who is now a figure of near-legend. Mean's brother Carrillo went looking for Lovelygod and ended up ``running some center for the finding of lost children in America.'' Virginia O'Day also figures prominently: she lived in Copperfield as a teen-ager and became a writer. We're treated to her early diaries, to a series of interviews with her, and even to letters she wrote to Charles Dickens (``The trouble is, I am a girl''). Then the narrative magically doubles back on itself when it changes point of view; and, finally, after poetic prose and meditations on extinction, after lovely pseudo-history and reflections by O'Day (``It seems to be a very Australian story, the story of Lovelygod. Children disappear without a trace''), we come round to ``A Reader's Guide to the Bluebird Cafe,'' where various people and places are defined in glossary fashion. A curious fable, then, written with the precision of a Nabokov, that creates its own world and makes that world vital. Bird manages in brief sections to construct an odd and endearing place, filled with its unique inhabitants: a sweet-natured looking- glass version of Twin Peaks.

Pub Date: April 29, 1991

ISBN: 0-8112-1156-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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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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