ISLANDS IN THE STREAM

As seems increasingly apparent to most of us, Ernest Hemingway was richly endowed, but he spent his genius long before he died. Across the River and Into the Trees was an embarrassment while he lived, and now, with Islands in the Stream, his posthumously published novel, we have a sad bequest indeed. His wounded giants, floored by fate or nada, love or war, once had his celebrated "grace under pressure," symbols of the lost generation, participants in pastoral myths smeared with the blood of the hunt or of battle, yet sophisticates, drinking and wenching, determined to be true, in a world of deceit and wretched idealism, to "the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion." it was a heady creed, engendered by history, nourished on character and circumstance, but it could not last. As Hemingway grew older, his experiences narrowing, his fame widening, image-making set in with insidious allure: he began to drift, floating along through echoes of past triumphs, the later works, even The old Man and the Sea or A Moveable Feast, seeming more and more the sum of his fantasies about himself. Thomas Hudson is the middle-aged hero of Islands, painter and expatriate, resident of Bimini and Cuba, shadowy survivor of affairs which turn "rotten" or of gorgeous memories, who kisses "hard and well." He has his code and his comrades, "the brave and the good," and loses his three sons (the two youngest in a gratuitous car crash, the oldest, an R.A.F. pilot, during the Second World War). Alone and stoic and inconsolable, he courts death heading a patrol boat scouring the Caribbean for "Krauts," feeling at last the engines coming "through the deck and into him," his friend Willie saying, "Oh shit, you never understand anybody that loves you." Hudson has a period flavor, a whiff of the museum, as does, with its meandering, mannered style, the book as a whole. There are moments of lyric concision, snatches of faultless description, a breathtakingly accurate re-enactment of a fisherman's ordeal, the old greatness glimmering now and again, all the more piercing, perhaps, when surrounded by so much that's stale and worn.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 1970

ISBN: 0684837870

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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