WAITING FOR THE DARK, WAITING FOR THE LIGHT

Czech writer and former dissident Kl°ma (My Golden Trades, 1994, etc.) eloquently limns the troubling dilemma of a life set free too late. Like so many of his contemporaries behind the Iron Curtain, talented filmmaker Pavel Fuka, protagonist of this post- revolutionary novel, tried to survive the dark years with his integrity and ambition intact. But, as Kl°ma movingly details, youthful ideals and a sense of one's own creative powers are not enough to withstand a system devised to crush the human spirit. Pavel, who once believed in something, became a man who ``lacked hope, hope that something in life had real meaning.'' Moving between the past and the recent present, Pavel describes the long years he spent working for state-run television. There, as his requests to film conditions in an explosives factory or a psychiatric hospital were routinely denied, he filmed, instead, meaningless ceremonies, meetings, and interviews. He also recalls early ambitions of filmmaking and travel; a failed youthful attempt to escape and subsequent imprisonment; two futile love affairs; and his present dissatisfactions. He dreams of making a great film, one with the same title as the novel, but when the revolution comes Pavel is no less unhappy, as he embarks on remunerative but sleazy enterprises with former colleagues. The changes come too late: Pavel cannot make his long-dreamed-of film, because ``there's nothing easier than persuading yourself you could really do something if you tried, as long as you know that they'll never give you the chance. The system never allowed you to win, so it saved you from defeat as well.'' A quiet but searing portrait, as powerful as any of Kl°ma's pre-revolutionary novels, of a man and a society irreparably wounded by an oppressive past. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8021-1574-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

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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