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

READ REVIEW

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more