Meant to be Alice in Wonderland by way of Boogie Nights, the book comes off more like vintage Tarantino performed by...



1983 is like, a bummer, man, in this hazy quasi-comedy about sex, blow and what’s next.

No stranger to the unique strain of adolescent nostalgia for California after her similarly themed debut, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, Blau (Drinking Closer to Home, 2011, etc.) goes over the top, sometimes very uncomfortably, with this druggie blast from the past. Set in the Los Angeles glory days of hair, metal and valley porn, the author designs quite the odd duck to center her gray comedy. When we open on shiftless Berkeley college student/remind-us-yet-one-more-time-she’s-Jewish-biracial-Asian—wait, she has a name, it’s Allie Dodgson. Anyway, the girl is not doing so hot. She loaned a bunch of money to her dreamy boyfriend, who promptly broke up with her. To make ends meet, Allie is working in a crappy dress shop in Oakland with her BFF Beth, snorting coke and trying to avoid the antagonistic penis of her masturbatory employer Jonas. Unfortunately for her, tuition and the rent are both due, and Jonas isn’t giving up her paycheck without a fight. In a fit of pique, Allie swoops up a Wonder Bread bag full of high-octane cocaine, and she’s off on her After Hours-esque misadventure. There are a lot of bad decisions, a lot of poorly made decisions and a lot of kooky characters to keep Allie rolling and tumbling. “I want to go back to school next summer,” Allie says. “I want to stay in Berkeley and graduate with honors. I want to return this car to my friend Beth. I don’t want to be a coke-snorting thief.” There’s a bit of lost-girl syndrome as Allie tries to reconnect with her rock-star mother and her absentee father. But tastes will vary—between the paraplegic porn producer and Allie shagging Billy Idol (seriously), most readers will have made up their minds one way or another.

Meant to be Alice in Wonderland by way of Boogie Nights, the book comes off more like vintage Tarantino performed by HBO’s Girls.

Pub Date: May 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-219955-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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