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FREEMAN'S

CALIFORNIA

In this collection, California in all its glorious complexity comes vividly to life.

John Freeman understands California.

Freeman was raised in Sacramento, and his sensibility is personal but also collective in the sense that he has thought deeply about the state. “California,” he writes in his introduction to this sixth issue of his eponymous literary journal, “has for a long time been seen as the Valhalla of far-flung dreams.…California is also, however, the site of real people’s homes.…This schism—between what California represents in popular imagination and what it is, what it means to live there, to be from there—means Californians collide constantly with the rupture of existence.” Such a notion animates the 30 pieces of prose and poetry gathered here. The work is wide-ranging, by newcomers and established talents: Xuan Juliana Wang, Elaine Castillo, Frank Bidart, D.A. Powell. It tells the story of California in pieces, which is the only way it can be told. Jaime Cortez writes of fire and evacuation: “It occurs to me that in unison, millions of us are inhaling the sofas and ottomans of Paradise, the cars and gas stations of it, the trees and lawns, the clothes and detergent, the wedding pictures and divorce papers, the cadavers.” Héctor Tobar imagines a boy left alone so often by his working mother that she no longer needs to warn him, “Don’t turn on the stove or play with matches. Don’t open the door if anyone knocks. Don’t play with the electrical plugs.” Both writers are addressing what we might call ordinary peril—or more accurately, the necessity of doing what we have to do. Such a requirement sits at the center of California life. Some of the work touches on the broader myths by which the state is often stereotyped: Jennifer Egan on post-1960s San Francisco, Geoff Dyer on cannabis culture, Rachel Kushner on cars. But even here, the focus is on the idiosyncratic, the individual, rather than on the cliché. “We have not talked about your transcendence,” former poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera insists in “California Brown,” a poem that recapitulates, in part, the state’s virulent racial history, “we have not talked about the forces of power / ripped into your bones & flamed out of your face.” The point—or one of them—is that, in California, one must learn to persevere.

In this collection, California in all its glorious complexity comes vividly to life.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4787-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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