THE IMPERSONATOR

Screenwriter Hammond (Sweet Lies, 1979) churns out a slick, sinister sex-cum-suspenser about a gifted, stylishly enervated chameleon's trick of haunting his clients, his lovers, and himself with secrets from the past. The Impersonator, whose name rather anticlimactically turns out to be Barrett Rossignol, first surfaces in New York's Touch Me Club, doing an impersonation of glamorous drowned performance-artist Theo Buckley that captivates her widower, Robert Elias de Pe§a (``author of two slim but popular books of philosophy for the layman''), and arouses the all-too-justified suspicions of Robert's second wife, Jane Donovan, who comes home early one day to find besotted Robert in bed with the Impersonator. Two years later, unwitting Jane herself is living with the Impersonator, who's managed to insinuate himself self- protectively into her life. Ironic, huh? Meantime, cutaways to the Impersonator's previous domestic establishment (he'd been living with Marly, a 30-ish has-been who'd thrown away ``the potential to become one of the greatest actresses of the theater'') and a long flashback to his childhood (he was a poor boy taken up by a wealthy neighbor girl who grew up to become Theo Buckley) have prepared us for the earth-shaking revelation that ``there is no Barrett. I don't think even Barrett thinks there's a Barrett.'' Finally, Jane's brother Hal, testing the Presidential waters by announcing for the Senate, needs to reopen a discreet investigation into Theo's death in order to make sure there's nothing there for the tabloids, and Hal's investigator Jacklin can't help finding the Impersonator's footprints all over Theo's past, right up to the day of her death. The Impersonator's disappeared from her bed and board—no, he's returned to threaten her with a tire iron—no, wait.... It must have taken so much energy to create this handsome, androgynous enigma and give his friends their world-class rÇsumÇs that there's none left over to pull together the threads of this foolish, deluxe trifle.

Pub Date: July 10, 1992

ISBN: 0-385-42362-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1992

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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