BLIND ARGUS

From Italian writer Bufalino (Lies of the Night, 1991): a rich feast of a novel that—with just the right mix of poignancy and comedy—details one golden summer's gift of love to a man whose youth had been spent amidst mud and blood. The narrator decides, now that he's old, to write a ``happy book'' about the summer he spent as a 30-ish high-school teacher in a town on the Sicilian coast—a time when he was ``twenty reborn'' and ``convalescent in the sun,'' enjoying that summer's gift to him, a gift owed him because of the war. Eager to love and forget, even if only for a month or two, he describes how he first falls in love with tempestuous Maria Venera, granddaughter of Don Alvise Salibba, one of the town's last aristocrats, who lives in a crumbling palazzo. Nonagenarian Don Alvise is a ``splendour of a fellow with the gift of the gab'' who loves to tell ``cynical, titillating yarns.'' The narrator's love is briefly shaken when Maria tells him she's pregnant by another man and asks him to help her get an abortion. Still obsessed with her beauty, he has a brief but intense affair with the discarded mistress of a local magnate, flirts with former pupils, and daydreams. But when his close friend becomes betrothed and Maria runs off with a French filmmaker, he realizes that all he's done is ``play-act love.'' The summer ends with his transfer, and now, years later, dying in Rome, he wonders whether ``memory behaves as the body does when confronted with an onslaught of microbes—a defence force isolates the most dangerous, and leaves them immortal but inert within us.'' These ``golden moments'' we resuscitate later in writing—that ``prosthesis of living.'' Witty, wise, and ebulliently literate: a modern fable about the tricks that love and memory play on us.

Pub Date: June 18, 1993

ISBN: 0-00-271048-X

Page Count: 175

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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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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