A satire that shines a spotlight on intolerance but offers little hope for change.

THE MISADVENTURES OF BUDDY JONES

In this novel by Margolis (The Myth of Dr. Kugelman, 2015, etc.), a self-proclaimed “redneck” travels to meet with a daughter whom he has not seen in 20 years and makes friends with an African-American Civil War buff.

Buddy Jones lives in Middleberg, a fictional town in Missouri. He enjoys drinking and demolition derbies, and he likes to have a firearm nearby “at all times.” As he’s grown older, he’s developed numerous ailments, including a “mule-stubborn back, bad knees, and a clogged heart.” Still, he still has plenty of vigor when spouting his racist and misogynist viewpoints. After splitting up with his girlfriend, Penny, he heads to Atlanta to meet with his estranged adult daughter, April, whom he hasn’t seen since she was 8. He hitches a ride with Floyd Washington, an exterminator and Civil War aficionado who’s traveling to visit the grave of his great-great-grandfather Ebenezer Washington, a slave who later fought in the 44th United States Colored Infantry. Buddy narrates ruefully, “It made me uncomfortable to travel with a black man, but what choice did I have?” During his journey, Buddy learns firsthand about the prejudice that black Americans face on a daily basis, as when a white highway patrol officer pulls Floyd over for no apparent reason. But will Buddy’s new experiences alter his bigoted worldview? Margolis makes a point of highlighting his main character’s lack of education, as when Buddy remarks that he’s not “sofisticatered.” The author also doesn’t hold back when demonstrating the degree of his protagonist’s bigotry; for example, Buddy refers to a turban-wearing waiter as “Alibaba” and a “camel jockey,” and calls Hollywood movie actors “left-wing faggot[s].” Buddy is also revealed to be a staunch supporter of Donald Trump. Margolis offers a poisonous caricature of blue-collar, right-wing, white-American masculinity. Some readers may balk at this stereotype, while others will delight in its savagery. For the most part, the author is an observant and skilled satirist. However, Buddy’s relentless racist tirades seem like overkill and ultimately make for a tiring read.

A satire that shines a spotlight on intolerance but offers little hope for change.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9912154-5-4

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2018

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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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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