Though the developing writer has considerable stylistic flair, the novel mixes slam dunks with air balls.


This scattershot debut novel about scandal in professional basketball shows flashes of virtuosity, though some of the writing clangs off the rim.

There’s a jittery brilliance to the book’s prologue, in which the Kobe Bryant rape case is used as a launching pad for fiction that draws plenty of inspiration from recent years’ headlines. It begins in staccato rhythm, relating and repeating the facts of a case in which a famous basketball player checks into a hotel, meets a girl whom he believes is there to service him, leaves her dead and flees. In the mind of Gilbert Marcus, a renowned athlete since high school, what he has committed is neither rape nor murder, though the society that has let him coast through a life of limitless privilege isn’t about to let him slide on this one. The rest of the novel can’t sustain that opening momentum, as it details the backstory that has brought Gilbert to this critical juncture. His father is a former pro-basketball journeyman who never fulfilled his potential and who drills Gilbert to become the star that Mervin Marcus could never be. When Gilbert finishes high school, he jumps to the pros as a can’t-miss prospect (giving the novel a slightly dated feel, since the league no longer allows this). Though Gilbert isn’t Kobe (there are traces of Tiger Woods and LeBron James mixed in), other characters are barely disguised stand-ins for Shaq and Michael Jordan, while one seems like a bad-boy amalgam of Allen Iverson, Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest. The lives of most of these professional basketball players are as seamy as their public images are polished. While Gilbert is extraordinarily precocious as an athlete, he has barely progressed beyond puberty in his relationships with his teammates and his sexual relations, which he finds unsatisfying and his partners find weird.

Though the developing writer has considerable stylistic flair, the novel mixes slam dunks with air balls.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9299-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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