As argument, literate, impassioned, and disturbing; as fiction, overemphatic and often dull. Perhaps only for Coetzee’s most...

READ REVIEW

ELIZABETH COSTELLO

Multiple Booker winner Coetzee (Disgrace, 2000, etc.) dramatizes—just barely—a celebrated Australian author’s considerations of “the humanities” as embodied in moral action.

Coetzee’s eighth is a gathering of lectures and talks, framed by circumstances preceding and responses succeeding them, each involving elderly Elizabeth Costello (one of the narrators of Coetzee’s recent nonfiction Them Lives of Animals, 1999). Renowned as the writer of The House on Eccles Street (a novel about Molly Bloom), Elizabeth is invited to speak at various prestigious conferences, sometimes accompanied by her son, a college science teacher. At Williamstown, Pennsylvania, she usefully (if unoriginally) defines realism as a sense of being “embedded in life”; subsequent appearances in the US and abroad are dominated by her provocative comparisons of the slaughter of animals to Hitler’s genocidal mandate “to treat people like animals”; “The Problem of Evil” elicits her emotional response to a novel about Nazi Germany by Paul West—who also attends the Amsterdam conference at which she discusses it; and, in a final chapter that clearly reveals Coetzee’s debts to Kafka and Beckett, we see Elizabeth in purgatory, commanded to state what she believes, but willing only to declare her nonpartisan “negative capability.” A page of acknowledgements affirms that Coetzee has here reimagined in semifictional form several of his recent nonfiction essays and lectures. The result is a disappointing hybrid that cannot, except by the loosest possible definition, be called fiction. Yet it does involve and pique one’s interest, saved from utter turgidity by its protagonist’s vividly delineated confusion and uncertainty at having taken positions that alienate her from other, equally rational and sensitive people (such as her older sister, a nun working heroically in Africa).

As argument, literate, impassioned, and disturbing; as fiction, overemphatic and often dull. Perhaps only for Coetzee’s most ardent admirers.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03130-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

DEACON KING KONG

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more