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THE OATH

A NOVEL

Again Wiesel's richly somber, close and faintly cantorial prose flows over and repolishes the same impenetrable mysteries: that the massacre of innocents transmits a lifelong burden to the survivor; and that the survivor, both doomed and blessed, is forced to confront the knowledge of death which is "not a solution but a question, the most human question of all." This is the narrative of Azriel, the Na-venadnik or perpetual wanderer, who tells the story of his murdered Jewish village — his search for the "soul of the world" among holy men, rationalists, pragmatists and the sacred certainties of beggars and madmen. But Azriel is under an oath of silence, demanded of the village by the "madman" Moshe in the hours before the holocaust — is not testimony Death's ally, the articulation of killing inevitably linked to the act? Therefore, proclaimed Moshe, "we will testify no more." However, since death is "the primary defect. . . in creation," Azriel does tell his story to a young listener to prevent his suicide — to cheat death. Wiesel confronts concepts of fact and symbol and God and man while the meditations, Talmudic discourse, and tales of bestiality and nobility converge toward that night of absolute fear preceding the massacre — and the author mounts horror like a lectern. As in Beggar in Jerusalem (1970) and others, Wiesel examines the possibility of answers to the human dilemma with the experiential agony inherent in the question. Demanding and rewarding.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1973

ISBN: 0805208089

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1973

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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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