Readers who share the protagonist’s cultural passion—his crusade, really—may enjoy this tale.

THE NEXT BEETHOVEN

A debut novel takes on the academic and cultural establishment, especially in New York City.

Young David Green is a lavishly talented pianist and composer. He is also a rebel, disgusted with modernism and postmodernism in music (and the other arts). His self-appointed mission is to turn back the clock and revive the classical music—Romantic, most of all—that he loves. This is no less than a heroic quest to save modern culture, a culture that has become a cesspool in every regard. He wants—demands—no less than a second Renaissance. To this end, he recruits some like-minded young talents: an architect, a painter, a sculptor, and a poet. This gang of five becomes the Second Renaissance Artist Group. It does not go well. David’s unyielding zealotry drives them all off eventually, and the musician spirals down to an attempted suicide. With the help of the New York City Police Department, Dr. Bill Leornig, a psychologist, talks David off the Brooklyn Bridge. Leornig takes charge of the troubled David’s recovery. Will David ultimately soldier on alone in his noble cause? While his prose is sometimes a bit awkward, Magnet displays talent. In fact, as a kind of lagniappe, there are four quite clever short stories following the novel itself. He does strive mightily to make the characters, especially David, real and believable, a novelist’s prime job. And he is fervently committed to the view that David stands for. But a thesis novel, a work that is really written in the service of One Big Idea, runs the risk of sinking under the weight of that concept and of having its characters be merely puppets and mouthpieces. Such fiction/essay hybrids are always problematic. At one point, Magnet invites readers to skip, if they like, a long disquisition on art and psychology and get back to the plot (David hanging off the bridge), something akin to an actor’s breaking the fourth wall. This, then, is a book for readers who are intrigued by the hero’s artistic cause. (There are useful notes in the back.)

Readers who share the protagonist’s cultural passion—his crusade, really—may enjoy this tale.

Pub Date: June 19, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

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Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

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TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW

The adventures of a trio of genius kids united by their love of gaming and each other.

When Sam Masur recognizes Sadie Green in a crowded Boston subway station, midway through their college careers at Harvard and MIT, he shouts, “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN. YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY!” This is a reference to the hundreds of hours—609 to be exact—the two spent playing “Oregon Trail” and other games when they met in the children’s ward of a hospital where Sam was slowly and incompletely recovering from a traumatic injury and where Sadie was secretly racking up community service hours by spending time with him, a fact which caused the rift that has separated them until now. They determine that they both still game, and before long they’re spending the summer writing a soon-to-be-famous game together in the apartment that belongs to Sam's roommate, the gorgeous, wealthy acting student Marx Watanabe. Marx becomes the third corner of their triangle, and decades of action ensue, much of it set in Los Angeles, some in the virtual realm, all of it riveting. A lifelong gamer herself, Zevin has written the book she was born to write, a love letter to every aspect of gaming. For example, here’s the passage introducing the professor Sadie is sleeping with and his graphic engine, both of which play a continuing role in the story: “The seminar was led by twenty-eight-year-old Dov Mizrah....It was said of Dov that he was like the two Johns (Carmack, Romero), the American boy geniuses who'd programmed and designed Commander Keen and Doom, rolled into one. Dov was famous for his mane of dark, curly hair, wearing tight leather pants to gaming conventions, and yes, a game called Dead Sea, an underwater zombie adventure, originally for PC, for which he had invented a groundbreaking graphics engine, Ulysses, to render photorealistic light and shadow in water.” Readers who recognize the references will enjoy them, and those who don't can look them up and/or simply absorb them. Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise.

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32120-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

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DEMON COPPERHEAD

Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.

It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-325-1922

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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