Although lacking Bruce Wagner’s rapier bons mots and mordant sarcasm, a pleasant slow roast of Hollywood’s studied inanity,...

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REALITY

THE NOVEL

Reality-TV packager’s crisis of conscience drives murder plot in a comic’s debut novel.

Trent, newly promoted VP of Nova, which hawks reality-show concepts to the networks and cable, got where he is by never underestimating viewers’ hunger for programs like Pregnant Hookers and Extreme Animal Lovers (a show about bestiality). So when Stewart Dyson, his boss P.T. Beauregard’s Vietnam comrade-in-arms and archrival, tries to recruit Trent to help reform Reality’s venality, he’s all ears. P.T., who has taken telegenic sleaze to the level of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, gloats over Dyson’s sudden, suspicious death, which happened while Dyson phoned Trent to warn him that his own life was in danger. Dyson’s plan to seed the market with socially responsible programs, in which he’d enlisted Trent’s surreptitious complicity, is scuttled. P.T. is now hell-bent on removing the final barrier to Nova’s hijacking of the airwaves, censorious FCC Chairman Ronald Armsburger. Trent is convinced that his volatile boss’s shadowy past conceals mob ties, so he enlists coworkers Max and Rachel to help thwart what he is certain is a planned hit on Armsburger during the latter’s L.A. visit. Max and Rachel, Trent’s bombastic lover, are also in on Trent’s last-ditch ploy to save American minds from further erosion by soulless reality shows: He’s going to kill P.T., take over Nova and launch his pet project, Samaritans, a kind of Pay It Forward with no payday. The fact that American minds aren’t exactly clamoring for more gravitas in their entertainment is lost on Trent, even as his best friend, Adam, finally succeeds in gainfully selling out with a screenplay chockablock with gratuitous violence and ersatz gangsta-speak. Although it stretches credulity that Trent would harbor such illusions without a background in public television, or that he’s desperate enough to murder, the final twist is a thoroughly credible surprise.

Although lacking Bruce Wagner’s rapier bons mots and mordant sarcasm, a pleasant slow roast of Hollywood’s studied inanity, complete with laugh-out-loud reality-show pitches.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-89733-548-1

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Academy Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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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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