Once more, with horror, as another Kosinski-an, foreign-born American—George Levanter of "Investors International"—goes out on a taut, unconnected series of international "blind dates" with violence and debasement. We first meet a mysteriously sweet George at a Swiss resort, where he blows up the ski gondola occupied by an evil monarch's ruthless henchmen. This, perhaps, is "execution of justice" rather than crime, but when Levanter begins to reminisce—longterm incest with dear departed Mama, successful teen-age rape (and unsuccessful attempts to confess)—the morality of each bruising incident is buried in the dizzying accumulation of blind nature's unjust assaults. Whether Levanter is victim (blackmailed by corrupt cops in a Southern company town) or avenger (shishkebabing a Communist spy in a homosexual bathhouse) or voyeur (meeting a legless, baby-sized woman who hitchhikes), he is "removed from the act." That goes for the sexual act too, of course, with a fresh-from-the-operating-table transsexual or the perpetually aroused wearer of a "grope suit" or the true love/rich widow who dies of cancer. Because Kosinski is a master of secret-keeping and a master of enticingly neutral prose—never ironic, never flushed, never crude—he can guide us into dark places we'd otherwise avoid and elicit shudders we'd otherwise suppress in advance. Even the Sharon Tate murders reclaim their original horror: Levanter is the lucky houseguest who didn't show up. And the minor clashes, like the gratuitous humiliation of a Chinese laundryman, are almost as shocking as the flashes of freakdom, whoredom, and political terror. The bottom-line Kosinski question remains: notwithstanding his philosophical drift (Levanter's realperson acquaintances include Jacques Monod, believer in Life = Genetics + Chance), is this National Book Award winner really only a high-class pornographer, retailing an inventory of human abuse? Perhaps. But this latest inventory is quick to take hold and hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 1977

ISBN: 0802135544

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1977

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...


Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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