A witty, winking political novel sure to satisfy liberals in an age of extreme partisanship.

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Off the Reservation

On the verge of retirement, a straight-talking U.S. congressman campaigns for president in this fast-paced, wryly comic, and vastly satisfying political satire.

Just weeks after announcing he wouldn’t be seeking re-election, Congressman Evan Gorgoni of Indiana finds himself thrust back into the national spotlight after his frank and defeatist appearance on Meet The Press. “Truth is…there are too many people in the world,” he says. “If civilization keeps procreating this way, we’re doomed.” Refreshed by his realist approach, the media starts floating his name for a presidential bid. The Democratic senator ignores the hype—he’s enjoying retirement—until meeting his would-be contenders. “If I don’t run,” he tells Monty Berg, his quick-witted campaign manager, “the country’s going to choose between another cynical tax-cutter, and Nate Poston. Who has never met a question he couldn’t dodge.” With the help of Monty, he wins the Democratic primary and spends the rest of Merzer’s electrifying debut novel running against his Republican opponent, Gov. Malcolm Benneton, on a loose platform of population control and environmental sustainability. Refusing to prepare speeches, Gorgoni eschews grand promises and often loses himself in tangents. “My fellow Americans, I say to you with deep conviction in my soul, let us do away, totally, irreversibly, and permanently, with the leaf blower,” he says during his acceptance speech. Using real names of contemporary figures and writing with a keen eye for the absurdities of the American political system, Merzer offers a story of brash realism in an age of congressional gridlock. While most left-leaning readers will cheer for Gorgoni, many conservatives will likely find the novel dismissive of their ideology. Nevertheless, the author writes with a steady pen, and he rarely misses the opportunity for a joke. Whatever their politics, readers will chuckle at this systemwide sendup.

A witty, winking political novel sure to satisfy liberals in an age of extreme partisanship.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692315163

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Vivid Thoughts Press

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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