INCIDENCES

Gaunt vignettes, stories, scenarios, plays, and any other scrap of writing, however small, by a Soviet writer who was killed by the Stalinist regime. Cornwell's brief introduction heralds the Russian pseudonymously known as Daniil Kharms, a member in the 1920s of the left-wing literary avant-garde group OBERIU, which embraced absurd, existential, and experimental writing. As Stalinist intolerance rose, Kharms was declared subversive and allowed to publish only books for children; later he was denied publication altogether. He continued writing, enduring periods of persecution, poverty, and starvation before his 1942 death in a prison hospital. His body of work is scant and all the pieces short: Most are no more than a page or two; ``The Old Woman,'' his masterpiece, runs on for 29. Kharms takes as his subject matter everyday events, depicting them with absurd twists that lend political resonance. Carpenters, writers, families, and historical characters (Pushkin, Gogol, Michelangelo) survive the bizarre and often violent monkey wrenches thrown their way. More often than not, these ``incidences'' are fables that capture a national climate characterized by violence, alienation, deprivation, and disorder—the physical and mental realities, perhaps, of the author as well. The pieces' brevity often makes the book's pace bumpy and unsatisfying; these bare bones could use a little meat. The author's success in expressing himself within a wide range of genres and styles, however, is a triumph of observation and control, although the dramatic work ``Yelizaveta Bam'' demonstrates that this changeability can be as much of a chore for the general reader as it is a feast for the stylistic scholar. Nonfiction here is dull; Kharms's bluntness leaves no room for inference, and his letters, theories, and autobiographical sketches lack the bleak but compelling details of daily Russian life found in his creative writing. An anorexic though not anemic collection that can be fully appreciated only with knowledge of the author's biography.

Pub Date: July 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-85242-306-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1994

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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