Fans of Russian absurdist satire will most enjoy this offbeat, if uneven, debut.

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Selected Episodes Relating to the LIfe of Vladimir Daniilovich Myukis, Deceased

Marcus’ debut novel depicts the aimless life of a third-rate Russian artist.

The author states on the book’s back cover that he was inspired by a visit to a museum that contained a great deal of very bad art; the artworks’ only notable characteristic was their enormous size. Vladimir Daniilovich Myukis, nicknamed Volodya, appears to be Marcus’ imagining of the sort of artist who would create such work. Volodya, orphaned in World War II, is rescued from gang life by a policeman who notices his skill at drawing and maneuvers him into an art school run by the Soviet NKVD police agency. Volodya later spends most of his adult life working in the art department of an auto manufacturer—a front for the KGB—but eventually he makes his way to Brooklyn, N.Y., after the fall of the Soviet Union. He ends his days there working in a Jewish delicatessen. The high point of his life is a love affair, brutally cut short when his ex-KGB fiancee is transferred to parts unknown just two weeks before their planned wedding. In the end, virtually all his paintings are destroyed. Whenever he paints a mural, the building is inevitably razed or shelled, and when he stores his paintings in a garage, its Pakistani owner is mistakenly picked up for “extraordinary rendition” and his property confiscated. When he makes a major sale of animal paintings, they’re used for target practice by hunters impressed by their realism. There’s little in the way of drama here; the story is told in a mock-documentary style, and its nonlinear structure forces the narrative into discrete episodes. The author ably depicts the hopelessness of life in the Soviet Union, but in the end, he doesn’t clarify Volodya’s relationship to his art—is he a bad artist because he has little talent, because he has no muse, or because his bureaucratic superiors thwart him?

Fans of Russian absurdist satire will most enjoy this offbeat, if uneven, debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479721535

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2013

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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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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