A triumphant and eloquent collection that never shies away from the emotional and intellectual entanglements of love and...

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SIRENS' SONGS

A compact yet thematically and stylistically wide-ranging verse collection that contains lyrical and nuanced explorations of love, power, impermanence and aging.

The sea washes through this collection, not as a fixed symbol, but rather as something as capricious and mutable as life itself. Its currents may represent irresistible forces of attraction (“Siren’s Song”); its depths, the generative source of life (“The Mermaid’s Tale”); its tides, the vicissitudes of aging (“I’d Hate to See My Love Grow Old”); and its unyielding forces, a threat to reclaim what it has birthed (“The Sea Dance,” “First Marriage”). Out of fear, love or simply wonder these narrators hold fast to the sight of the sea, by turns flailing to escape its currents or submersing themselves in its solemn, primordial metaphors. Not surprisingly for a volume drenched in superlatively feminine associations, these poems have much to say about gender issues and the burdens and triumphs of femininity. There are unabashed celebrations of sexuality, such as in “Doughnut Man,” which conflates several sensory pleasures, and even frightening glimpses of a woman who kills dispassionately the man she loves in “The Crime.” But there are also threats to the female body and psyche as in “First Marriage” where the narrator flatly acknowledges that “He fucks to kill,” or in “Mustache Man” in which the narrator “couldn’t stop laughing / until one man walked right through me, / followed by another, and another. / Then, as the tide rose and the sun sank, / they trampled me into the dark, wet sand.” In exploring the crimes perpetuated on the female body and heart, Stevens (Ragbag, 2010) occasionally resembles Sharon Olds, though without the sustained brutality and conceptual density. While the poems suggest a world of both empowered and victimized women, where the men are as likely to be the sirens as not (“The Steel Pier”), her accompanying illustrations, simple line sketches, tend to portray women in almost comically erotic terms, but always with a hint of elemental wildness to them, suggesting that they can never be victimized for long.

A triumphant and eloquent collection that never shies away from the emotional and intellectual entanglements of love and lust, connection and manipulation, the momentary and the eternal.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1935916031

Page Count: 88

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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