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AMATEURS

Felicitous characters and a scrumptious plot make Hicks’ second novel refreshing and fun.

The personal and social lives of a group of friends are on display in this modern novel of manners.

Hicks’ second novel, after Boarded Windows (2012), is smart, witty, and endearing. In a brief prologue, dated April 1972, we meet the Crennel family. Marion, a daughter, has written an unfinished novel that was “meant to be a parody and refraction of the kind of nuptial denouement one finds in Shakespeare or Austen.” (Sounds a lot like Hicks’ own novel.) She hides it in the attic. Then Part 1, titled "Prenuptial," begins in May 2011. The novel is divided into months over 11 years. Episodes go back and forth in time. We meet characters in one episode and then jump a few years ahead in the next episode to see them now older, maybe wiser. New characters, mostly minor, pop up along the way, and gradually, all the characters are jumping back and forth in time, slowly moving toward Part 2, "Postnuptial," with the last episode set in September 2011. It’s very much a modern Austen-esque novel of manners. Carefully plotted, it’s jumpy at first, but once settled in, the story takes off, providing a clever, jaunty ride. In May 2011, we first meet Karyn and her young son, Maxwell. She’s been invited to her cousin Archer Bondarenko’s wedding to Gemma in June. His family makes dildos, and they’re plenty rich. He’s published a successful novel which he may or may not have written. In August 2004, we meet Sara Crennel, a burgeoning writer; she’s with Lucas Pope, who was previously with Gemma. Sara may or may not have written Archer’s novel. Scandal ensues. A handy score card of who what when helps keep track of everyone in this sprightly tale about friendship and courtship, money, love, assorted complications—and writers.

Felicitous characters and a scrumptious plot make Hicks’ second novel refreshing and fun.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56689-432-6

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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