UNDER THE SHADOW

From prolific Sorrentino (Misterioso, 1989, etc.), an anthology of 59 sketches (``Fire,'' ``House,'' ``Casino,'' ``Balloon,'' etc.) that are occasionally interlinked and often intriguing as a sort of post-Donald Barthelme dreamlike rendition: tantalizing, enigmatic, but finally promising more than they can deliver. A tone of wistful postmodernist loss pervades the venture: ``it seemed to sensitive and alert men and women that language had begun to collapse and then dissolve....'' This loss of language becomes a motif. In ``Fire,'' for instance, we read of ``the holocaust of books,'' while Sorrentino, using recurring characters, pops in bits of musicology, psychology, literature, etc., all to insinuate a connivance between the short dreamlike narratives and the ideal reader: ``...for each of the clues in and of itself, and for all of them in combination with certain, or all, of the others, there is always to be discovered a person who, aghast, reads in them the hidden secrets of his or her own life. In some inexplicable way, the clues point everywhere at once.'' As in a Godard movie, the real and surreal merge: in ``Moon,'' a recurring character looks through a telescope at the moon and sees erotic goings-on between a man and three young women. Are the characters real? Are they imagined by each other? This is the sort of game Kundera plays self-consciously and ploddingly but accessibly, while Sorrentino deliberately abandons plot in favor of poetry and image so that story won't interfere with the text's attempt to ``metamorphose and relocate its images, to turn its callous dialogue into metaphor: to soften it, that is, into bittersweet sadness.'' Yet another prose experiment from Sorrentino—pellucid miniatures page by page but, in its entirety, an impressionistic collage that is by turns lyrical, funny, and self-indulgent.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-916583-84-8

Page Count: 137

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1991

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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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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