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THE LOST CHILD

Gorgeously crafted and emotionally shattering.

Award-winning novelist, essayist and playwright Phillips (Color Me English, 2011, etc.) responds to Wuthering Heights.

A difficult daughter and an unhappy wife, Monica Johnson is contrary, self-destructive and—finally—mad. That Monica, in her broad outlines, resembles Cathy Earnshaw is no accident. Her story—as well as that of her husband and their sons—is interwoven with scenes inspired by Wuthering Heights and the life of its author. This is not to say that Monica is Cathy, transplanted from the moors to Oxford in the late 1950s. This is not a retelling. The interplay between this novel and Emily Brontë’s masterpiece is much more interesting than that. For example, Phillips imagines Heathcliff before Mr. Earnshaw takes him to the Heights. This boy is the son of a slave, a woman who worked a sugar plantation before being transported to England. Phillips isn’t the first to read Brontë’s “dark-skinned” antihero as black, but he also connects the boy to Monica’s husband, Julius—a man who gives up academic life in order to take up the cause of anti-colonialism in his West Indian home country—and to their neglected, dispossessed sons. The thematic links between the modern story and Wuthering Heights only become clear over time, and—even then—they’re too rich and subtle to work as simple allegory. Empire and race are among Phillips’ concerns, but he also offers heartbreaking depictions of alienation and the fragility of human relationships. While it would be easy to identify Heathcliff as the lost child of the title, it could also refer to Monica’s younger son—or her older boy. But Monica is lost, too. And then there’s Brontë, drifting further and further into her invented world as she dies. What Phillips seems to be saying, in the end, is that the lost child could be any of us—perhaps even that the lost child is all of us.

Gorgeously crafted and emotionally shattering.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-19137-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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