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Hair-raising and hellish.

A return visit to the monstrously twisted family of last year’s Dead Above Ground.

When we first met Lita Du Champ, she was a 17-year-old New Orleans Creole who could pass for white, as could her “sister” Adele. Their wild mother, Helen, however, raised them to be “colored and proud, never wanting to be something [they] weren’t.” Now, ten years later, Lita lives in LA with Big Winston, their two kids, Winnie and Jude, her younger twin sisters, Ava and Ada, and her dangerous and crazy Aunt Dot’s incorrigible son Richie. At 13, Richie steals $50 from Lita and lights out for New Orleans. Teenager Ava busts out of her dresses, flirts with men, and drives Lita crazy. Then Lita gets a call from Aunt Dot in New Orleans saying that Lita’s detested father Lucian lies on his deathbed and that dead mother Helen, gone for a decade, has been seen walking the streets. Life in LA has died on Lita, so she goes home to make amends—and stay there in her father’s house rather than sell it. Meanwhile, Ava tells Lita the secret story about how she and Ana and Richie went to the burn ward in the New Orleans hospital where ex-pimp Lucien lay after trying to burn down Helen’s house—and threw his bandaged body out the fourth floor window. Back in New Orleans, life really falls apart as all Lita’s ghosts come to roost.

Hair-raising and hellish.

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7434-4884-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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