A short novel that might have served better as a short story.

THE DEATH OF SOC SMITH

The tide gets rough for an aging California surfer and war vet when he discovers his obituary in the local newspaper.

Socrates “Soc” Smith is your typical laidback California native, content with a simple lifestyle that includes thumbing through the newspaper in the morning, watching movies in the evening with his wife, Jayne, and cruising down to the nearby beaches in his ’48 Woody to scope out the waves on his days off. One Saturday morning he happens upon the local paper’s obituary page, which contains a pronouncement of his death. Assuming the listing is nothing more than an accident or a friend’s benign joke, he prepares to get to the bottom of things the following Monday morning. His plans are complicated when, that afternoon, Jayne receives his official death certificate in the mail. What Soc assumes to be a simple matter of clarifying facts with county officials and newspaper editors turns into a fruitless game of trying to convince people that he’s alive. To make matters worse, Soc’s purportedly abandoned job is already filled by a younger man, and Jayne receives a $50,000 life insurance check. Concluding that there’s little anyone can do to bring him back to life, Soc realizes he’s off the public grid and hits the surf all week to sort things out. Suddenly faced with the possibility of leaving his wife of 25 years in pursuit of the Kerouac-like escapades he’s always dreamed of, Soc must wrestle with the fact that “someone else made him dead.” But what starts out as an intriguing premise with lots of potential for metaphysical musings on life and death, or at least a modern-day male anti-adventure, becomes a droll scrutiny of a common man with humdrum aspirations. Soc is so averse to risk during the first two-thirds of this brief book that it’s difficult to care whether or not his quandary is amended. Arthur takes great pains to describe Soc’s every action in many sections, leaving much of the content feeling like filler material: “He changed the channel to a boxing match. He watched a round until a commercial came on. He jumped around the channels for a couple minutes and then he switched back to the fight. He watched that round, and then he turned the T.V. off.” Much of the story is otherwise conveyed through snappy dialogue and Soc’s turbulent reflections, which some readers will find a redemptive quality, particularly as Soc makes his final decisions.

A short novel that might have served better as a short story.

Pub Date: April 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0984299065

Page Count: 131

Publisher: Jerome Arthur

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2012

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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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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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