THE DESIRE AND PURSUIT OF THE WHOLE

Rolfe (1860-1913) was an abusive, learned English writer (pen name: Baron Corvo) whose most famous work was Hadrian the Seventh. Set in Venice, the novel at hand was written in 1904 (a year before Mann's Death in Venice) but not published until 1934, with its homoeroticism pruned. This is its first complete, nonbowdlerized publication. Rolfe's relatives detested the posthumous manuscript and though it should be burned. Like Rolfe, its hero—Nicholas Crabbe- -has a genius for making enemies and, like Rolfe, Crabbe is rejected for the priesthood by the Roman Catholic Church (to which he'd converted at 25), takes up painting, then writing, and at the beginning of the story here is first seen aboard a small boat he's provisioned with the intent of retreating utterly from mankind for several months. But one night an earthquake ashore destroys a town before his eyes, and the next morning he rescues the only creature there still alive: an androgynous but breastless boy/girl of 17 who goes variously as Ermengilda and Zildo and who becomes Crabbe's shipboard servant. The surprised Crabbe falls into an obsessive craving for Zildo while sinking into dire poverty amid the glories of Venice. Though brought up as a boy, Ermengilda is the daughter, through many generations, of three Doges of the Middle Ages, has the gait of a goddess, radiant splendor, magnificent muscular curve of neck and shoulder, superb saturnian form, a clear-souled gaze, and the unwrung pluck and poise of ages past. Crabbe must marry Gilda/Zildo and have his/her ``bud''—but, first, can Crabbe's exquisite angel save him from starvation? A bizarre gay fantasy finds the right age at last.

Pub Date: March 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8076-1331-2

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Braziller

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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