A treat for Maazel’s fans.

A LITTLE MORE HUMAN

Fresh fiction from the author of Woke Up Lonely (2013) and Last Last Chance (2008).

The story begins with Phil Snyder astride a horse, dressed in the blue Spandex costume of a superhero named Brainstorm. Phil is just waking up from an alcohol- and karaoke-fueled stupor, and the image is arresting—funny and pitiful at the same time. But, as the crowd assembled before him starts clamoring for autographs and photos, it’s impossible not to wonder why parents don’t shepherd their children away from a supposed superhero in tights caked in mud, blood, and algae. It’s easier to accept that Phil can actually read minds, just like Brainstorm—which he can—than it is to imagine grown people letting their youngsters anywhere near this obviously troubled imposter. This is one of the challenges of writing in the absurdist mode. How much is too much? When do readers willingly suspend disbelief, and when do they dig in their heels? Fans of Maazel’s earlier work will undoubtedly keep reading and find much to like here. Phil isn’t just an honest psychic freak who pretends to be one on the weekends. He’s also a nursing assistant at a facility that specializes in cognitive disorders and a man about to become the father of a child his wife conceived with sperm she purchased without his knowledge. For someone who can read minds, Phil is easily flummoxed, and the limits of his ability to understand anyone at all are put to the test when he’s presented with evidence that he, himself, has committed a terrible crime that he does not remember committing. Maazel gets the manifold ways in which contemporary life is ridiculous. She also understands the ways in which comedy trends toward disaster. And, finally, she’s smart enough to interrogate the ways in which comedy and tragedy are the same.

A treat for Maazel’s fans.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55597-769-6

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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THE SECRET HISTORY

The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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