Next book

A GIRL IN EXILE

REQUIEM FOR LINDA B.

An author respected throughout Europe should reach a wider American readership with this subversive novel.

Kadare (Twilight of the Eastern Gods, 2015, etc.) subverts the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice into a parable of totalitarianism.

The prizewinning novelist published this in his native Albania in 2009 and set it within “the dictatorship of the proletariat” that ruled his homeland for much of the latter half of the 20th century. The protagonist is a playwright who has been summoned for questioning by the Party Committee. He figures his newest work has fallen under scrutiny by investigators, who would be “looking for hostile catchphrases, counting the number of lines given to negative characters as against positive ones, looking at the fingerprints on the manuscript to find out if anyone suspicious had read it.” Instead, it seems, the issue at hand is an entirely different matter: a young woman has committed suicide, and in her hands was a book the writer had inscribed to her. He tells the committee he had never met her but had inscribed the book at a reading, at the request of another young woman, with whom he had proceeded into a tumultuous relationship. The playwright had suspected that this woman might be a spy for the government, and now he becomes increasingly concerned about his suspected involvement in the death of a woman he never met. The novel spirals deeper into surreal mystery as it explores the relationship between the two women, the impetus for the suicide, and the impact of the investigation on a play the protagonist is in the process of writing. “Better if you don’t know,” an investigator responds when the playwright asks of the circumstances surrounding the suicide. In his obsessive reflections, the playwright somehow becomes Orpheus, whose artistry can bring his wife back from the dead, but only if he keeps from looking at her as he leads her out of Hades. Myth and dream, memory and repression, all converge as the novel illuminates the essence of art in totalitarian Albania.

An author respected throughout Europe should reach a wider American readership with this subversive novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61902-916-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

Categories:
Next book

THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet...

Four Chicago sisters anchor a sharp, sly family story of feminine guile and guilt.

Newcomer Lombardo brews all seven deadly sins into a fun and brimming tale of an unapologetically bougie couple and their unruly daughters. In the opening scene, Liza Sorenson, daughter No. 3, flirts with a groomsman at her sister’s wedding. “There’s four of you?” he asked. “What’s that like?” Her retort: “It’s a vast hormonal hellscape. A marathon of instability and hair products.” Thus begins a story bristling with a particular kind of female intel. When Wendy, the oldest, sets her sights on a mate, she “made sure she left her mark throughout his house—soy milk in the fridge, box of tampons under the sink, surreptitious spritzes of her Bulgari musk on the sheets.” Turbulent Wendy is the novel’s best character, exuding a delectable bratty-ness. The parents—Marilyn, all pluck and busy optimism, and David, a genial family doctor—strike their offspring as impossibly happy. Lombardo levels this vision by interspersing chapters of the Sorenson parents’ early lean times with chapters about their daughters’ wobbly forays into adulthood. The central story unfurls over a single event-choked year, begun by Wendy, who unlatches a closed adoption and springs on her family the boy her stuffy married sister, Violet, gave away 15 years earlier. (The sisters improbably kept David and Marilyn clueless with a phony study-abroad scheme.) Into this churn, Lombardo adds cancer, infidelity, a heart attack, another unplanned pregnancy, a stillbirth, and an office crush for David. Meanwhile, youngest daughter Grace perpetrates a whopper, and “every day the lie was growing like mold, furring her judgment.” The writing here is silky, if occasionally overwrought. Still, the deft touches—a neighborhood fundraiser for a Little Free Library, a Twilight character as erotic touchstone—delight. The class calibrations are divine even as the utter apolitical whiteness of the Sorenson world becomes hard to fathom.

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet another pleasurable tendril of sisterly malice uncurls.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54425-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

Next book

HOUSE OF LEAVES

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

Categories:
Close Quickview