A slender, fast-paced, fever-dreamed excursion that, despite a lack of plot, becomes undeniably addictive.

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THE SUMMER OF CRUD

A rollicking, entertaining adventure on the open road starring two ferocious youths fueled by booze, pot, and canned spaghetti.

Screenwriter and author LaPoma (Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story, 2015) combines the restlessness of youth with the lure of drugs and dreams in his latest novel about young men desperate to escape the confines of their stagnant lives. This character-driven novel opens not with fanfare or history, but with action and movement. Danny boards his friend Ian’s Toyota Camry for what they hope to be a life-changing cross-country road trip, leaving Buffalo for the West. Having recently graduated college, both rough-and-tumble, music-loving men hit the road without a game plan or a goal or even much money, just their desire to start a band and to “write songs and play them on the streets of the Haight.” The novel is frenetically narrated by Danny, a hyperactive, easily agitated 22-year-old with a history of psychological issues, paranoia, and antagonistic internal voices—not to mention the private pain of his chronic anal fissures, which plays out in a series of panicked, agony-wracked bathroom sequences. They stop in Illinois to visit mutual friend Ricky, and Danny smokes the kind of weed he hopes will stave off his anxiety, knowing that “there was no place I could hide if shit turned bad.” Thankfully, in the glaring absence of real plot points, LaPoma adds back story to flesh out the origins of Danny and Ian’s friendship—Danny’s love for a girl named Delilah and their mutual affinity for music. A stop in Iowa leaves room for more music and marijuana. As they arrive in Colorado amid a haze of parties and drugs, the men’s bickering escalates and becomes more personal. They finally arrive in California, where the party continues from San Francisco down to Los Angeles, and the travelers mingle with “hip sexy people everywhere, all groomed and painted and waxed to perfection.” LaPoma, not seeming to know what to do with his perpetually blitzed, spun-out characters, leaves them in Vegas, where they “smoke…a shitload of pot,” have a quick epiphany, decide to stop running, and head home to reboot their lives.

A slender, fast-paced, fever-dreamed excursion that, despite a lack of plot, becomes undeniably addictive.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9988403-2-1

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Almendro Arts

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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