THE MEMBER-GUEST

A deft series of interconnected stories set around a small- town country-club golf tournament. Nearly each of the ten stories focuses on a different person somehow involved in the tournament, beginning and ending with Rod, the country club's golf pro, who is several years removed from the professional circuit yet still young enough to fantasize about making a comeback. He, like most of the characters, has settled for the less ambitious life path. Instead of putting for multi-million dollar purses, Rod deals with members' missing golf clubs, dead dogs in the parking lot, and a night burglar. Then there is the local real estate agent who doesn't golf but hosts a club clambake to help his sagging sales. Unfortunately, he uses discount clams and makes a sour impression. Then, because he sold her car to buy the tainted clams, his wife leaves him. Irate over the club's all- male policy, she also fills the golf cups with cement the morning of the first day of the tournament. Along the way, a concession- stand waitress saves the realtor's wife from drowning but is herself mired in a trailer-park marriage to the night burglar. Among the other assorted semi-losers are the hustling repairman who is having an affair with the concession waitress; the talented but unambitious teenage assistant pro; a hotheaded gambler who carries a gun in his golf bag; the club president's son, who designs generic products to resemble name brands; as well as an aging torch-song singer at the local tavern for whom Rod falls. The most poignant story is ``The Mule Collector,'' in which the club president's arrogance and vulnerability in the face of senility are piercingly rendered. Newcomer McCown's fluid writing is sometimes marred by strained coincidences, and the endings tend to be a tad pat and sermonizing, yet this series of mini-portraits successfully illuminates the subtle details of middle-age people coming to grips with failed ambitions.

Pub Date: March 7, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-47655-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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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