Next book



“Whether the reader finds entertaining or tiresome such smoke-and-mirror tricks, a staple of Postmodernism, will depend on...

Are we ready for this? Another labyrinthine metafiction from the veteran literary gamesman who has beguiled and befuddled readers with such brainteasing doorstoppers as Giles Goat-Boy (1966), Letters (1979), and The Tidewater Tales (1987).

Persevere, and you’ll soon realize we’re once again in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay region, where a Rabelaisian “piroguer” (roughly, scavenger) who appears to play—and possess—both male and female parts patrols the bay accompanied by her buddy EARL (thus acronymically named because he works at the nearby Earth Air Reconnaissance Laboratory). Their semirelevant peregrinations are both pirogue and prologue to the contention between veteran writer “Mister B.” (a.k.a.: “The Novelist Emeritus”) attempting to finish his latest (probably last) book as a hurricane, and the dawning of the 21st-century approach—and young hypertext whiz Johns [sic] Hopkins Johnson (“The Novelist Aspirant”), whom Mister B. dutifully recommends for a grad-school writing program. The rivalry between the two is sharpened by efforts to convert a retired Navy vessel into a “showboat”—a phenomenon that each undertakes to describe in fiction. Seasoned Barth readers will know about Our Author’s own long-ago (1957) first novel, The Floating Opera, and won’t be surprised when this latest meanders into sly invocations of both Aristotle’s Poetics and Edna Ferber’s pop classic Show Boat (along with its numerous theatrical and film mutations), as the writers’ war loopily intensifies. The pleasures of sailing and of making both fiction and love (frequently with, well, showboating “actress” Sherry McAndrews Singer, who is, inevitably, this novel’s Scheherazade) are celebrated more than a little coyly, though Barth does get off some fine frenzied sequences involving nautical-theatrical impresario Mort (!) Spindler, and an impudent recasting of Mark Twain’s Huck Finn (as “Hick Fen”).

“Whether the reader finds entertaining or tiresome such smoke-and-mirror tricks, a staple of Postmodernism, will depend on that reader’s taste and experience.” The reader couldn’t have said it better himself.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-13165-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

Next book


The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

Next book


Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

Close Quickview