As complex as the disorder it seeks to explore; makes for a frequently disquieting read.

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Jonathan Harnisch: An Alibiography

A fragmented debut novel about life lived under a fog of schizophrenia from author Harnisch.

Benjamin J. Schreiber has a number of problems, not the least of which being that he tried to rob a bank with a cellphone. Mentally ill, though protected by a powerful father and a trust fund, Ben finds himself in therapy instead of jail. While in therapy, Ben explores his alter ego, a masochist named Georgie Gust. Much like Ben, Georgie depends on wealthy parents; a state of affairs that he uses to explore all types of humiliation and kinky sex. After Georgie hires a neighbor named Claudia to torture him in new and inventive ways, he succumbs to a type of twisted love only his peculiar mind and circumstances could produce. Book Two drifts back in time and finds a high school-aged Georgie attending a prestigious private school in New England. Afflicted with Tourette’s syndrome, Georgie has a hard time making friends. When Claudia, the girlfriend of a popular lacrosse player, takes an interest in him, it naturally causes problems. Following chapters become yet more disordered, with names and afflictions repeated, though the circumstances tend to vary. It’s 1987, and the reader sees Ben’s suburban New York family home being remodeled while his unhappy mother goes about her private demise. Later Georgie marries a woman named Clio, though he longs for a waitress named Claudia. At one point, Jonathan Harnisch introduces himself as a mentally ill artist in a string of beat-like sentences: “Thoughts. Thoughts bombard my head, my brain. My psyche.” What is the reader to make of these worlds of obsessions, disorders and well-to-do young men? Those looking for an anchor in this swirling sea will have difficulty finding one. Taken as a fictionalized account of a disparate mind, the book succeeds—although not without moments of melodrama and repetition. Claudia and Georgie’s teenage relationship often proves no more exciting than an after-school TV special, but at another point in the book, when the torturer-for-hire Claudia must find new levels of debasement to explore, Georgie’s pain is very real and not for the faint of heart.

As complex as the disorder it seeks to explore; makes for a frequently disquieting read.

Pub Date: May 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499350722

Page Count: 804

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 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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