Charming enough in small doses, but ultimately irritating and inconsequential.

QUEEN OF THE ROAD

THE TRUE TALE OF 47 STATES, 22,000 MILES, 200 SHOES, 2 CATS, 1 POODLE, A HUSBAND, AND A BUS WITH A WILL OF ITS OWN

How to get away from it all while taking it all with you.

A self-described Jewish princess from Long Island, Orion (Psychiatry/Univ. of Colorado; I Know You really Love Me: A Psychiatrist’s Account of Stalking and Obsessive Love, 1997) grudgingly accompanied her gung-ho husband on a yearlong trek around the country in a converted bus, despite her addiction to designer couture and general disinterest in leaving the house. A series of minor setbacks ensued (malfunctioning door, difficulties parking, etc.), but the journey passed pleasantly enough, as the author learned to prioritize relationships and experiences over material things and engage with the world beyond her television set. Mildly amusing situations and observations abound; Orion is relentlessly quippy, making the book resemble a low-impact remake of the screwball road-trip comedy The Long, Long Trailer with Rita Rudner playing the Lucille Ball role. It’s difficult, however, to sustain interest in the author’s many anecdotes concerning the cute antics of her pets or her beloved husband’s zeal for DIY projects. The material is simply too mundane, and while Orion tries gamely, her employment of goofy puns, warmed-over self-deprecatory shtick and Erma Bombeckian wry homilies fails to transform the proceedings into comic gold. Her spiritual epiphanies likewise grate: Grand renunciation of material pleasures is a bit much coming from someone who can afford to take a year off work and seek out “authentic” experiences from the comforts of a diesel-guzzling luxury recreational vehicle. The book is also unsatisfying as a travelogue, since Orion’s interest remains stubbornly focused on her cozy domestic concerns. The surprising paucity of reportage on local color and customs or the variations in landscape, architecture and cuisine contributes to an overriding atmosphere of twee self-congratulation as the author announces her newfound willingness to hike a mountain path or cut back on her television consumption.

Charming enough in small doses, but ultimately irritating and inconsequential.

Pub Date: June 10, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7679-2853-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more