Nothing wrong with a narrator this shallow, but she should at least be funny.

THE WASHINGTONIENNE

Party girl leaves cushy New York life for meagerly paid Capitol Hill job and starts sleeping with the high and mighty for extra cash.

While there are plenty of mistakes Cutler doesn’t make in her first novel, subject matter as salacious as hers still deserves to be more interesting than this. Cutler was the briefly infamous Senate employee whose blog about her scandalous romantic entanglements led to her being unmasked and losing her job. Here, Jackie is a New York club fiend interested only in dancing, drugs and screwing around who loses her rich boyfriend/meal ticket after cheating on him and has to crash with a friend in D.C. while getting subsistence pay working for a senator. Always quick to figure out how to have a good time on someone else’s dime, it’s not long before Jackie is sleeping with some powerful men and getting money in return. She’s not quite a hooker, in that there’s never talk about price—envelopes of cash are left on bedstands, Jackie mentions her rent is due and it gets paid, etc.—but the difference is fairly academic when her secret is blown. It’s a relief that Cutler seems to have few illusions about Jackie, an aggressive airhead who’s looking for her next meal ticket and can be counted on to be the most self-obsessed person in any room (“Despite my life-shattering emotional trauma, it was nice to know that I still looked hot”). Still, that clarity of vision doesn’t mean the reader is in for any insight beyond a few pop-psych tidbits tossed out near the end. Cutler has a tendency to use spoiled and lazy writing to talk about spoiled and lazy people who think they deserve acclaim for how spoiled and lazy they are. The result, ultimately, is a book best read for its depressing portrait of the scrounging, idea-free juveniles who staff Capitol Hill offices.

Nothing wrong with a narrator this shallow, but she should at least be funny.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-4013-0200-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more