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A realistic portrayal of the children of a laissez-faire God.

Belli (The Scroll of Seduction, 2007, etc.) profiles the First Woman.

The novel, first published in Spain, is a more somber, meditative treatment of the First Family than Elissa Elliott’s Eve (2009). Belli’s Serpent is female, and mischievous, not evil. Instead of tempting Eve, she reveals that the creator, Elokim, is offering humans the option of inaugurating history (with all that labor, heartbreak, chaos and death) or remaining eternally, happily and, one senses, rather dully (for Elokim, at least) cocooned in Paradise. Once Eve chooses knowledge of good and evil, the first inkling she and Adam experience of fundamental upheaval is violent sexual attraction. Uprooted from the Garden (by a cataclysm involving neither Elokim nor sword-wielding angels), Eve and Adam seek shelter, figuring out everything for the first time. That stomach pain? Hunger. Those previously friendly beasts? Predators—and prey, when Adam discovers that, unlike Eve, he’s not a vegan at heart. Blindsided by her nausea and swollen belly, Eve and Adam puzzle out pregnancy, childbirth and nursing by observing animals. Eve bears two sets of fraternal twins, first Cain and Luluwa, then Abel and Aklia. Unlike Elliott, Belli doesn’t posit the existence of other humans in Adam and Eve’s milieu (although Eve encounters helpful monkeys). Thus mankind’s mandate to go forth and multiply entails incest. A rare directive from Elokim, however, forbids the coupling of each son with his twin sister. But Cain prefers beautiful Luluwa to Aklia. When Cain murders Abel, resulting in his and Luluwa’s exile, the Serpent has mating suggestions for Aklia that will resolve the reproduction, not to mention the evolution, dilemma. Although slowed by philosophical rumination, this narrative presents Adam and Eve and their offspring as individuals, not archetypes.

A realistic portrayal of the children of a laissez-faire God.

Pub Date: March 10, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-167364-1

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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