QUARANTINE

Spanish experimental novelist Goytisolo (Landscapes After the Battle, 1987, etc.), the author of a two-volume memoir (Realms of Strife, 1990, and Forbidden Territory, 1988), explores the 40-day journey that souls, according to Islam, take from the moment of death to their final resting place and reflects on the creative writing process. For him, the journey is a quarantine of sorts, akin to the experience of a writer who must withdraw from the world so that his imagination can take flight. Indeed in Quarantine, Goytisolo's narrator is a writer in the process of composing a novel—in fact, the very novel we are reading. He is imagining his own death and journey as he meditates on the spiritual wandering of a woman friend who has recently died. The narrator, like the dead according to Islam, must account to Nakir and Munkar, the two angels who examine and, if necessary, punish the dead in their tombs. Meanwhile, it is the year of the Persian Gulf War, and all its wartime horrors become mingled with the torments of the underworld. At the end of the ``waiting'' period, the writer's novel is finished and his soul and the soul of his friend are released. ``Write, keep writing about me,'' she implores him. ``Only your interest and the interest of those who read you can continue to keep me alive!'' Quarantine is an intriguing multilayered novel, but one at times more powerful in concept than in execution. The writing itself is awash in a dreamlike quality that bestows on even the vivid descriptions of pain and torture a gauzy, and not always compelling, feel. Goytisolo's fans, however, should be pleased by this unique meditation on death and the creative process by a distinctly original voice.

Pub Date: April 16, 1994

ISBN: 1-56478-044-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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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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