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Smartly entertaining, if not entirely convincing, lampoon of contemporary fame and the celebrity biography.

The second English translation from the young German author (Measuring the World, 2006).

Sebastian Zollner is a journalist, a vocation for which he is spectacularly unsuited. His strongest—really, only—character trait is self-absorption, which makes him a thoroughly unperceptive observer. He might be the world’s most boorish art critic, and his most recent endeavor—the biography of a reclusive artist who will, with any luck, soon be dead—is compelling not so much because he’s interested in the man’s work, but because Zollner is pretty sure that he can get “a first-serial deal in one of the major color magazines.” But it turns out that Zollner is no match for Manuel Kaminski. A contemporary of Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso, Kaminski never quite achieved the acclaim of those modern luminaries, but he did achieve a certain kind of fame as a painter who worked while going blind. But before Zollner can discover whether Kaminski is a genius, a fraud, or both, the old man convinces his biographer to take him on a quest to find a lover whom he had thought was lost forever. While it is a less delightful story than Measuring the World, this novel is also a sort of European intellectual version of the buddy picture. Once again, Kehlmann explores a relationship between two men shaped by extraordinary circumstances—in this case, those circumstances include an untrustworthy hitchhiker and a rather pleasant prostitute. But the use of Zollner’s first-person voice doesn’t quite work. As an unreliable narrator, he is kind of hilarious, but the humanity he achieves by the end of his relationship with Kaminski will make the careful reader wonder about his cartoonish lack of empathy at the beginning of the novel.

Smartly entertaining, if not entirely convincing, lampoon of contemporary fame and the celebrity biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-37744-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2008

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

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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