A surreal performance that’s worth a read, particularly as a reflection of a historically important time and place.

LAST NIGHT IN GRANADA

Pellizzari’s debut novella tells a young man’s story of idealism, passion, and loss, toggling between 2003 and 2012 as well as between Andalusia and America.

The story opens with a young man named Chris seeing an Illinois doctor to get a prescription for Ambien. He’s a wreck who can’t sleep and has panic attacks. But it wasn’t always this way. Nine years before, when he was a junior at the University of Illinois, he spent his spring semester in Granada, overwhelmed by the romance of it and his passion for the Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca’s works—and for a young woman named Vera, a precocious sophomore in the same program. Now, in 2012, he takes three Ambien pills and tries to sleep, and the remainder of the novella takes place in a liminal space in which he confronts his dreams and his demons, his memories and his present dismal reality. Chris has been fired from his dead-end job and lives alone, fighting his anxieties and trying to make sense of his past and salvage some sort of future. However, what once promised to be everlasting love between the two young people is over; Vera is a now a matron with three kids and a cloddish husband in another Chicago suburb. Pellizzari shares Chris’ first name, he lives in Chicago, and he once attended the University of Illinois, as his character does. Whether the author actually went to Spain for an idyllic semester or fell in love with a woman named Vera isn’t stated in the novel; what is real, or at least fully realized in these pages, is the protagonist’s fervor over García Lorca, and the surreal, poetic way in which Pellizzari tells the story is very effective indeed. Ghosts almost overwhelm this tale—not just that of the Spanish poet, but of all those others who perished in the Spanish Civil War, famously captured by Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica. To call this novella elegiac is an understatement, and those who love García Lorca—who was assassinated in 1936 at the age of 38—will be moved by the love that Pellizzari shares here. Still, readers would do well to get up to speed on the Spanish Civil War, García Lorca’s life, and the concept of “El Duende” before reading this work. On another level, the story of Chris and Vera is a very old and wry one—a tale of the exotic and romantic versus the mundane and realistic. The passionate love in Granada, as depicted here, seems fated to end as it did in Illinois. Such love hurts, then it passes, and soon we’re middle-aged and wiser, as Chris learns—pining for a ghost that won’t come back again. Fortunately, Pellizzari has the good sense to tamp this emotion down somewhat in his prose, which is poetic but controlled—and all the more successful for its restraint.

A surreal performance that’s worth a read, particularly as a reflection of a historically important time and place.

Pub Date: June 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9990584-8-0

Page Count: 108

Publisher: ReadLips Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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