Elliott’s work, in its own snarling and unruly way, contains brilliance.

THE NEW AND IMPROVED ROMIE FUTCH

This first novel from Elliott (The Wilds, 2014) blends dystopia and Southern Gothic.

Taxidermist Romie Futch has spent his life with deadbeat dudes who like to drink—you know, people like him. Still smarting from the breakup of his marriage and needing some money, Romie signs up for a medical experiment at the Center for Cybernetic Neuroscience in Atlanta: he and his fellow subjects get all of the humanities uploaded to their brains. Soon, Romie and his new pals are discussing the highfalutin in the only vernacular they know: “Fuck that punk Derrida. Got game in his flow but no heat.” This, essentially, is the joke of the novel’s first third, and it wears a little thin. But when Romie leaves the center, Elliott tells a bizarre (and bizarrely moving) story about how he tries to put his life back together. Dreaming of an art career, Romie hunts squirrels, stuffs them, and makes them into dioramas illustrating Foucault and Bentham’s concept of panopticon. Soon, he’s hunting bigger animals, using the head of a wild swine to dress himself as “Lord Tusky the Third, a lean and refined gentleman with the head of a boar.” (This is Elliott at the height of her absurdity.) Eventually, Romie becomes obsessed with killing a mutant hog nicknamed “Hogzilla” (with, yes, plenty of Ahab references). How does all of this hang together? Surprisingly well, mostly because Elliott uses Romie’s heartbreak to underpin all the action, no matter how silly it gets. It’s not a perfect novel, but it’s always energetic. At its worst, it feels like an author showing off, in love with her central concept like a parent who can’t stop talking about her kids on Facebook. Then again, as this novel reminds the cynical, seen-it-all reader, sometimes strangeness is enough.

Elliott’s work, in its own snarling and unruly way, contains brilliance.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941040-15-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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