A clever and kinky theatrical romp with a big heart.

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MIDSUMMER'S BOTTOM

In this fantasy novel, a disastrous theater troupe specializes in Shakespeare.

In Limerick, Ireland, the Midsummer Players have been presenting Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream for 19 years. Director Terence Devlin hopes that the upcoming 20th anniversary performance will be the one that garners the hardworking, though unevenly talented, company some renown. The Players, however, don’t realize that every fey character mentioned in the famous work is obligated to attend, thanks to a devious bargain with Shakespeare himself. And among the countless productions the fey King Oberon and Queen Titania have witnessed, Devlin’s is one of the worst. Enter the real fairy Puck, who’s come via portal to the mortal world to find a mischief-maker who can infiltrate the Players and halt the show. Del Chapman, who’s just unleashed a computer virus on his employer and made his getaway in a stolen BMW, is stunned when Puck appears in the passenger seat. After causing a car crash to prove his powers, Puck explains to Del that the fairy can’t directly interfere with the Players. Despite misgivings about his acting abilities, Del agrees to ingratiate himself with the troupe and derail the performance. Of course, this chaos agent doesn’t anticipate the long-brewing complications among the actors. In this ribald fantasy, Dash (An Other Place, 2016, etc.) gifts fans of the Bard a nuanced comedy that comments heavily on the travails of monogamy. Almost all of the Players are dysfunctional couples, including Devlin and his middle-aged wife, Anna; Felix Hill and Nuala Shay; and Don Magill and Ingmar Van Dorslaer. Rising star—and Devlin’s secret lover—Kate Pummel and shy banker Diarmid Garrigan are wild cards with whom Del and Puck cause mayhem. The author spices events further by sending Diarmid to the fey realm, where nudity is unremarkable. He laments to Titania and Oberon: “In the human sphere, bodies have different meanings. There is sex in that land, and one is always aware of it.” A duality emerges in the novel, speaking both to the benefits of unfettered sex and the frustration at mortals’ preoccupation with the act.

A clever and kinky theatrical romp with a big heart.

Pub Date: June 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71720-021-1

Page Count: 458

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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