An unrestrained haggis of Rabelaisian raunch, stereotypes, satire and ultraviolence.

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ZIMBABWE

When a Scottish family hears that a relative’s homestead in Africa is being threatened by Robert Mugabe’s regime, they try to overthrow the dictator in Parker’s (Escape Route, 2012) novel.

Festooned with gleefully grotesque political, racial and gender stereotyping in the satirical vein of Terry Southern, this book centers on the lowlife Scottish farm clan known as the Flecks. Its three whiskey-swilling brothers pragmatically bought a trio of Navajo mail-order brides from the United States years ago, strictly for procreating. Their resulting three sons, now Iraq War vets, are the most bloodthirsty torturers and murderers ever to be drummed out of Her Majesty’s armed forces. An opportunity arises to indulge the Flecks’ manias for lethal violence, rape and animal cruelty when word comes that their rich uncle in Zimbabwe is under siege by marauding native “Kaffirs,” the result of dictator Mugabe trying to run white settlers off their land. The Flecks decide to go destroy the corrupt regime, picking up a Russian arms dealer and a sex-crazed upper-class British stewardess along the way. Parker makes occasional attempts to insinuate real-world Zimbabwean history and dirty dealings in the country’s capital into the plot. (He even uses the infamous word “disestablishmentarianism” in a sentence, which is pretty fab.) However, these clash with a cartoonish narrative that feels like a cross between a John Waters movie and Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip, featuring bizarre people doing foul things, often for robust shock value. Mugabe himself, when he makes his belated appearance, is a foppish, fey cross-dresser with a bondage fetish and a fantasy that he’s actually of white descent. Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Moammar Gadhafi also have cameos, sending the message that as bad as the Flecks are, there are real-world tyrants who are worse—although some readers may disagree. All that’s missing is a cameo by Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi.

An unrestrained haggis of Rabelaisian raunch, stereotypes, satire and ultraviolence.

Pub Date: June 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481796095

Page Count: 214

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2014

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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