Swan's third collection (Carnival for the Gods, Of Memory and Desire) offers ten stories, mostly set in the Southwest and mostly chronicling varieties of loss. In ``Venus Rising,'' one of the few pieces with a male protagonist, widower Jocoby, a stern narrow man who denied his wife any number of small pleasures, can't bring himself to get rid of her things; Swan subtly and poetically brings him round, through a series of visions of his wife and their life together, to intimations of a more natural way of being ``one might read if only he knew the language.'' In ``The Old Hotel,'' Jack Whedon, his wife Penny, and daughter Jewel live in debt in an old hotel in the desert until two boarders-one a deranged female and the other a teacher retired from France-move in. Jewel, witness to and participant in the ensuing adult complexities, comes of age: ``And she wanted to weep as though she were mourning the deaths of all she had known, something of her own death as well. And what would remain of it for her to remember?'' Swan usually earns such lyricism, though sometimes, as in the title story, about a woman who's ``always had trouble with history,'' evocative juxtapositions-here ranging from history books to pogroms and westward migrations-become a trifle cluttered. Again, though, the lyrical aphoristic finish (``All of us carried so far from the place of our origins'') is just right. Of the remaining stories, ``The Gift'' is about two sisters who travel to Yugoslavia and happen to meet a poet who knows their literature, while his own culture is a cipher to them; and ``Dreaming Crow'' uses a natural mysticism to tell about a woman with a crow that follows her everywhere. Some of these stories were published in The Kenyon Review, Colorado Review and Ohio Review. The best are superb explorations of loss.

Pub Date: April 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-8262-0767-7

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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