Somewhat far-fetched and slender, but unique and weirdly imaginative.

THE TATTOO ARTIST

Ciment (Teeth of the Dog, 1999, etc.) explores the long, strange life of a New Yorker who moves from Dada art to the art of tattooing.

Young Sara Rabinowitz, freethinking daughter of Orthodox Jewish immigrants to New York’s Lower East Side, finds work as a seamstress in the Ladies Waist Makers’ Union and spends her leisure time as a bohemian in pre-WWI Greenwich Village. Sara has a fiery affair with banker’s-son-turned-artist/revolutionary Philip Ehrenreich, who introduce her to Marxism and calls her “America’s great avant-garde hope.” The Depression, however, is hard on the couple, and Philip accepts a commission from a rich Swiss industrialist to scare up primitive art on the South Sea island of Ta’un’uu. Just before the outbreak of WWII, the Ehrenreichs are dumped on the island, where they look pretty ridiculous dressed in finery and offering cheap trinkets for trade. The natives ignore them until a terrible lightning storm kills several of the tribe; Philip and Sara are culpable, the locals conclude, and must endure retribution by having their faces tattooed. Thus begins Sara’s grisly and eventually liberating transformation, from a being whose scarred face “can no longer convey any sentiments of her own” to a revered elder tattoo artist whose craft brings to the surface the true self. Sara roughs it on the island for 30 years and might have forgotten New York altogether if a crew from Life magazine hadn’t arrived on the beach one day. A curious work that moves back and forth in time and place.

Somewhat far-fetched and slender, but unique and weirdly imaginative.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-42325-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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