Next book

THE MAIAS

Slow-moving and elaborate, by modern tastes: but a founding work of modern Portuguese literature, hailed by José Saramago as...

A 19th-century Portuguese epic is finally put into readable modern English, revealing a strange tale of decline and fall.

Eça (1845–1900) was a liberal in conservative Portugal, a litterateur who spent much of his adult life in willing exile as a minor diplomat in France, Cuba and England, “that land of heretics and…barbarous language,” as the materfamilias of the da Maia family has it. The da Maias are wealthy and influential, recognized throughout the country guided by a patriarch of enlightened sentiment who despises his son’s attachment to a woman who, he thunders, “is the daughter of a murderer and a slave-trader.” With that schism, the family weakens, until finally its foremost member is a dilettantish doctor, Carlos da Maia, who, with his scampish friend Ega, chases around the capital looking for various pleasures while philosophizing, drinking and amounting to not much of anything. The two flâneurs are fond of gossip, rivalries, even feuds, and of twitting the bourgeoisie and flouting convention with talk of the “so-called Christ” and a future without vegetables, “merely a remnant of man’s coarse animality.” Lisbon, alas, is a small pond even for such small fish. Carlos withdraws into a passionate relationship with a woman who has a daughter and has spent some time in the company of men for pay. As it develops, that is the least of the scandals surrounding her. The entanglements are worthy of Jane Austen, though much seamier, and they point toward the beginnings of the decadent apathy that would soon turn into totalitarianism. Think of it as a Portuguese Buddenbrooks, with a foretaste or two of Doctor Zhivago—save that where Pasternak’s novel ends with its doctor hero running away from a trolley, Eça’s has its doctor hero chasing after one.

Slow-moving and elaborate, by modern tastes: but a founding work of modern Portuguese literature, hailed by José Saramago as a masterwork.

Pub Date: July 30, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8112-1649-4

Page Count: 640

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

Categories:
Next book

THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet...

Four Chicago sisters anchor a sharp, sly family story of feminine guile and guilt.

Newcomer Lombardo brews all seven deadly sins into a fun and brimming tale of an unapologetically bougie couple and their unruly daughters. In the opening scene, Liza Sorenson, daughter No. 3, flirts with a groomsman at her sister’s wedding. “There’s four of you?” he asked. “What’s that like?” Her retort: “It’s a vast hormonal hellscape. A marathon of instability and hair products.” Thus begins a story bristling with a particular kind of female intel. When Wendy, the oldest, sets her sights on a mate, she “made sure she left her mark throughout his house—soy milk in the fridge, box of tampons under the sink, surreptitious spritzes of her Bulgari musk on the sheets.” Turbulent Wendy is the novel’s best character, exuding a delectable bratty-ness. The parents—Marilyn, all pluck and busy optimism, and David, a genial family doctor—strike their offspring as impossibly happy. Lombardo levels this vision by interspersing chapters of the Sorenson parents’ early lean times with chapters about their daughters’ wobbly forays into adulthood. The central story unfurls over a single event-choked year, begun by Wendy, who unlatches a closed adoption and springs on her family the boy her stuffy married sister, Violet, gave away 15 years earlier. (The sisters improbably kept David and Marilyn clueless with a phony study-abroad scheme.) Into this churn, Lombardo adds cancer, infidelity, a heart attack, another unplanned pregnancy, a stillbirth, and an office crush for David. Meanwhile, youngest daughter Grace perpetrates a whopper, and “every day the lie was growing like mold, furring her judgment.” The writing here is silky, if occasionally overwrought. Still, the deft touches—a neighborhood fundraiser for a Little Free Library, a Twilight character as erotic touchstone—delight. The class calibrations are divine even as the utter apolitical whiteness of the Sorenson world becomes hard to fathom.

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet another pleasurable tendril of sisterly malice uncurls.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54425-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

Next book

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

Categories:
Close Quickview