GALILEE

Though its ghoul and demon quotient is comparatively low, this lavishly campy creeper has a legitimate claim to the title of Weirdest Book Yet by the accomplished author of such genre classics as The Books of Blood (1988) and The Damnation Game (1987). John O’Hara, William Faulkner, and Barbara Cartland might have spent a lost weekend collaborating on this feverish tale of two feuding families whose destinies are catastrophically intertwined. Its narrator—who will attempt a book about his blighted polyglot clan—is Edmund Barbarossa, the crippled stepson of a mysteriously ageless beautiful black woman, Cesaria (who has the power to “raise stones” and “send her image wherever she wants to”), for whom a smitten Thomas Jefferson built a magnificent mansion on the North Carolina coast. Edmund’s quest for information (which often takes the forms of dreams and fantasies) uncovers a wildly melodramatic history begun in presumably biblical times in the vicinity of the Middle Eastern city of Samarkand; an old wrong that dates from the Civil War and must of course be avenged; and a most unwise misalliance between the Barbarossas (“something more than human stock”) and the Gearys, an agreeably malicious cross between the Kennedys of Massachusetts and the Compsons of Yoknapatawpha County. The Gearys are plagued by every sexual and conjugal problem known to man and woman, but what really ticks them off is the irresistible (to their women) animal magnetism of Cesaria’s Heathcliff-like son Galilee, a brooding sex machine whose services to womankind are subsumed in—believe this or not—what appears to be a Christ parallel. Barker’s tongue pokes visibly out of his cheek now and then, in a black comedy of miscegenation and its discontents that has to be a sendup of both the Harlequin romance and the American Southern Gothic novel. Overheated and intermittently risible, but the thing is entertaining: the kind of book for which hammocks were invented—not to mention double boilermakers. ($150,000 ad/promo; author tour; TV satellite tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-017947-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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