THE LAST OF THE SAVAGES

From the hokey title to the sentimental insight of the last line, McInerney's latest yuppie melodrama (Brightness Falls, 1992, etc.) at best recalls the social-climbing novels of John O'Hara. More often, his glittering narrative is bedecked with the baubles of cheap fiction: rich people, raw sex, drugs, booze, and fame. Part of McInerney's problem lies in his narrator, a creepy arriviste who's self-conscious about his failings, but never to the point of actually repudiating his shallow self. Now a middle-aged lawyer at a ``white-shoe firm'' (as he says more often than necessary), Patrick Keane first met his ``legendary'' friend, Will Savage, in 1965, at a New England prep school where the two roomed together. The last in a line of debauched and dysfunctional southerners, Savage displays all the self-assured recklessness of a rich kid who couldn't care less about SATs or fitting in. Rather, since it's the '60s, he cultivates his outlaw pose, reading the Beats, practicing Buddhism, digging the blues, and cruising the black neighborhoods of his native Memphis. Savage takes the fall for one of Patrick's prep school indiscretions, and thereafter Patrick serves as liaison to Will's screwed-up, right-wing family, though he can't prevent Will from marrying his longtime sweetheart, Taleesha Johnson, the niece of a prominent bluesman. Unbowed, Savage becomes a fabulously wealthy and successful record producer. Patrick, meanwhile, with a Park Avenue apartment, a nice wife and two kids, becomes a partner in his law firm and struggles to make sense of his own conflicted sexuality. McInerney's facile reconstructing of history allows Patrick to discover a pre-Bellum Savage family memoir that explains their entire racial history, and, as the years hurtle by, McInerney continues to blunder through time, repeatedly taking pratfalls in passages of oily writing. Fiction for those who wouldn't be caught dead with Collins, Steel, et al. but want the same greasy splendor.

Pub Date: May 16, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42845-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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