POLITE SEX

For his fifth novel, Wilcox (Sort of Rich, 1989, etc.) leaves the everyday comedy of small-town Louisiana for more serious matters in New York City, where a few Tula Springs natives struggle with ambition and disappointment, and faith and disillusion. Wilcox plays with perspective in a narrative that jumps back and forth in time as he follows the lives of two Louisiana girls who come to the big city in the early 70's with seemingly opposite goals. The high-minded Emily Brix, whose parents are pretty low on the Tula Springs social ladder, wants to conquer the serious stage fresh from her years at Smith. Instead, she finds herself working as a ``glorified receptionist'' for a Times Square movie-production company, where she reads countless scripts that offend her lofty cultural standards. This petite, virginal, self-effacing blonde eventually marries Hugh Vanderbilt, a well-healed graduate student in theology at Union, whose practical proposal leads to an unromantic marriage. Meanwhile, Clara Tilman, a hometown beauty and friend of Emily's sister, decides to become a model to escape her abusive boyfriend back home, the studly F.X. Pickens (the future coke-head ex-con of Modern Baptists). With luck and newly acquired savvy, Clara exploits her southern belle act and earns modest fame as a TV actress while Emily's life spirals downward. Her acting career never takes off; her marriage falls apart; and she finds herself a dumpy 40-year-old living in cramped quarters and working at a test-preparation center. Things are never as clear as they seem here, and Wilcox's narrative style allows him to return to key events, exposing the passionate and messier truths of everyone's sexual behavior. Emily proves the most serious misrememberer- she's also a sexually repressed expert at denial who shares a dark secret with her alter-ego Clara. A surprisingly ordinary fiction from the otherwise gifted Wilcox, whose first venture outside Tula Springs drifts, with little humor to steer it straight.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-016356-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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