Portrait of a suburban Italian-American as a young man.

SAY THAT TO MY FACE

In a heartfelt first collection, Prete follows a good-looking Italian-American kid from Yonkers as he struggles to understand himself and his surroundings.

It’s 1975, and in the opening story, “No King, No Puppy,” Joey Frascone is a four-year-old living with his grandparents, his adored older sister, and his young divorced mother, who works in a department store. He’s just a kid, but he’s also precocious and confused at his changing world and his mother's relationship with a shady character who beguiles her children with promises of a house with a swimming pool. With each story, Joey grows older and more aware of the people and world around him, realizing during the turmoil of the Summer of Sam that the Gallagher girl from down the street has a crush on him, and that his father is behaving inappropriately when he lectures him, at eight, on the sexual differences between men and women. But Joey Frascone as a small boy is only mildly convincing. It’s when he reaches adolescence, in “Self Respecting Neapolitan,” that the collection gathers power. Here, he’s struggling to become a man, establish his independence, and to understand love when his first girl flees her abusive family and leaves for Phoenix. Joey is rebellious and yes, charming, when, lured by the New York City skyline, an Oz that glitters in its unattainable splendor, he ditches high school for a road trip with two buddies in “After We Left Yonkers.” His quest for success and experience continues with a trip to Jamaica to smuggle drugs and a bittersweet meeting in a bar with an older woman from the neighborhood. Prete aptly draws Joey in all his posturing and hesitant glory. “We were easy on the eyes and that carried a lot of weight in our neighborhood, but we had sense enough to know that if we were to be put in a room full of truly beautiful people, we would be asked to leave.”

Portrait of a suburban Italian-American as a young man.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-05798-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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