The crystalline metaphysician-ironist is only sporadically present in this distorted, frustratingly opaque world.

READ REVIEW

COSMOPOLIS

High finance, terrorism and paranoia, and various new technologies, all are targets in DeLillo’s darkly satirical latest: a bleakly funny footnote to such earlier anatomies of contemporary malaise as The Names (1982), White Noise (1985), and Mao II (1991).

The story surveys a single April day in the year 2000 as experienced by 28-year-old billionaire financier Eric Packer, a risk-taking epicurean who might be the considerably more jaded elder brother of William Gaddis’s eponymous preadolescent corporate mogul “J.R.” We first encounter Eric in his customized stretch limousine, where he “visits” with such functionaries as his sullen Czech security chief Torval, young-geek technical consultant Michael Chin, chief of finance Jane Melman, and sonorous “chief of theory” (actually an abstracted efficiency expert) Vija Kinski, among others. We learn that he’s playing a dangerous investment game, “betting” on fluctuations in the value of the yen; that sexual encounters with his middle-aged mistress and Amazonian personal trainer don’t ease a seemingly un-consummateable fixation on his wife, poet and heiress Elise Shifrin; and, in interpolated chapters, that a stalker plans to assassinate him. Meanwhile, the limo’s progress is slowed by a presidential motorcade, violent protest demonstrations, a rap star’s funeral procession, and a film crew at work in the streets. DeLillo assembles these quirky particulars expertly—and he still writes better sentences than any other contemporary author. The tale is ingenious and amusing, and there’s a chilling logic to its eloquent climax, in which Eric encounters his would-be killer and learns why he has apparently been “engineering . . . [his] own downfall.” Unfortunately, though, Cosmopolis is laden with abrupt, arbitrarily off-putting gnomic utterances (e.g., after Elise orders a restaurant salad, “She dug right in, treating it as food and not some extrusion of matter that science could not explain”).

The crystalline metaphysician-ironist is only sporadically present in this distorted, frustratingly opaque world.

Pub Date: April 14, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-4424-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more