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A deceptively simple, clear-eyed story that should find its sympathetic Gullivers.

The revolt of the Houyhnhnms against the Yahoos forms the essential allegorical plot behind fantasist Emshwiller’s astutely crafted, occasionally maudlin latest, on the tail of her fourth story collection (Report to the Men’s Club, p. 901).

The Hoots are the controlling humans who train, administer treats—and also punishment by poling—to their intelligent, sensitive, enslaved Mounts. These are the Sams and Sues of various pedigree—the Seattles being the strongest and most supreme, followed by the swift-footed Tennessees. Yet an insurrection has upset the order of things, and through the first-person voice of the adolescent Smiley, also called Charley, who is the carefully groomed Seattle Mount of the loyal, half-grown Little Master (a.k.a. His Excellent Excellency About-To-Be-The-Ruler-Of-Us-All), we learn that the tamed Mounts have made a violent push for freedom. Suddenly thrust into the wilds with Little Master clinging to his neck, Charley hooks up with the sire he has never known, Beauty, who is the colossally scarred, intractable Seattle and leader of the Mounts’ revolt. Charley is wary of his gruff father, smarting at his inability to love Charley’s mother, Merry Mary, with whom Beauty was forced to mate without love and whom Charley is determined to find, although he never knew her either. Together, Charley, mounted by the clueless Hoot Little Master, Beauty, and Beauty’s kind Tennessee girlfriend Jane, tough it through the wilds and try to avoid recapture by the wily, fork-tongued Hoots. Emshwiller’s peculiar, touching tale becomes a meditation on the virtues of civilization (comforts, discipline, and the principles of conformity) versus freedom and democracy. Which does Charley prefer? In the end he opts for love—and not (gasp!)—for one of his own breed. With patience and enormous affection for her four-legged characters, Emshwiller has fashioned an affecting, plausible story that manages to sidestep a heavy-handed symbolism.

A deceptively simple, clear-eyed story that should find its sympathetic Gullivers.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-931520-03-8

Page Count: 250

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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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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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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