From an inside perspective, there really is no business like show business.

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GLORY AND ITS LITANY OF HORRORS

The career of a middle-aged Brazilian actor goes seriously off the rails—and then plunges into the abyss.

Bad things happen in this second novel by Brazilian actress Torres (The End, 2017), and then bad goes to worse, but the tone of the novel remains closer to farce than tragedy. Having forsaken the soap operas that made him a star, the narrator has committed himself (and his financial resources) to a touring production of King Lear while his life offstage has become more Lear-like than his performance onstage. His mother has dementia; she believes her son is her husband, and she keeps trying to seduce him. At least she talks. Her mother-in-law, the actor’s grandmother, remains alive but barely lucid. And so the family members he might expect to help him care for his mother have their hands full. “I thought back to Lear’s madness,” he laments. “I should have studied my grandmother more closely.” For his real-life predicament strikes him as closer to the madness and tragedy of Shakespeare than what he has been portraying on stage, even before he had brought the whole production crashing down on him by breaking into uncontrollable laughter at the most inopportune time. The bulk of the novel finds him reminiscing on how he has found himself at this juncture. He remembers his early days studying under a radical polemicist, when he learned that revolution preached from the stage can lead to disastrous consequences. He found his own revolutionary inspiration in Hair; it was lust that led him to acting and then to love with an older actress who found it impossible to separate her roles from her life (a recurring theme throughout the book). A series of set pieces then includes a disastrous film shoot and a biblical TV soap titled Sodom, where “ripped dancer girls weaned on iron and protein supplements shook their silicon during the Dance of the Seven Veils.” He thinks he has hit his absolute bottom when he takes a toilet paper commercial in his role as Lear in his attempt to recoup his losses. But in a novel like this, things can always get worse.

From an inside perspective, there really is no business like show business.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63206-112-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Restless Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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