Has the world gone mad? Has Josh? Or has Goldstein?


It’s helpful that the title page characterizes this debut volume by NPR and magazine writer Goldstein as “(A Novel),” for otherwise the reader might be even more perplexed by the assortment of bite-sized vignettes, observations and non-sequiturs that challenges categorization.

Even the agile mind of the late Lenny Bruce (who receives the briefest of name checks here) would have difficulty determining what to make of this. The elliptical narrative was first published in 2001 in Canada, where the Brooklyn-born author lives. The anti-plot features a nondescript protagonist named Josh who works at a fast-food dive called Burger Zoo. Josh’s father is Chick. Josh’s mother is Frieda. Frieda is sick. Or dying. Or dead. Josh’s narrative makes such leaps of chronology and consciousness that just when the reader has determined that Frieda has died, she returns to life. Josh has a best friend named Kaliotzakis. Josh also has a series of girlfriends, though except for the changes of names as they come and go from these pages, it’s difficult to distinguish them. Josh has a rabbi with messianic aspirations who sells something called Kosher-style Love Lotion. The Love Lotion appears to be more repugnant than seductive. Sex is only one of the bodily functions that obsesses Josh. Maybe Josh has no inner life or maybe all he has is an inner life. Maybe all of this meandering is a meditation on consciousness, or connectedness, or time as it operates within the Mobius strip of the mind. Maybe it’s designed to subvert every expectation of narrative progression and character development, as if those who perceive life and art in such linear fashion haven’t recognized that the illusion of linearity is itself a trick of the mind. On occasion, Josh disappears, replaced by the first-person narration of “I.” Whether or not Josh is “I” doesn’t seem to mean more than anything else within this random, seemingly arbitrary assemblage of paragraphs.

Has the world gone mad? Has Josh? Or has Goldstein?

Pub Date: March 31, 2006

ISBN: 1-58243-347-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2006

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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