TROPIC OF ORANGE

Yamashita (Brazil-Maru, 1992; In the Arc of the Rain Forest, 1990) now turns her political concerns into an ambitious but cluttered, apocalyptic riff on immigration, the homeless, and NAFTA as the Tropic of Cancer moves north. Like the TV news program that Japanese-American Emi, a television executive, is responsible for, the novel cuts from scene to scene, character to character. And, again like the news, the effect, despite the underlying political preoccupations, is more often an incoherent collage than a cohesive commentary or convincing, perceptive interpretation of what ails society. Down in Mexico, where Rafaela is supervising construction of Chicano journalist Gabriel's house, she discovers a particularly nasty thug dealing in human body parts and flees north. Simultaneously, oranges filled with poison arrive from Mexico, killing innocent buyers and, in one instance, causing an accident that closes L.A.'s Harbor Freeway. The shut-down leads to a riot, the riot leads to a brutal shoot-out, and the shoot-out leads to the National Guard being brought in to restore order. But order, of course, can't really be recovered. As Emi, Gabriel's lover, hastens to cover the action—the cars abandoned by their owners on the freeway are mysteriously taken over by the homeless, who plant gardens under the hoods—Gabriel picks up the trail of the shadowy figure selling freshly harvested body parts to ill, wealthy Angelenos. Meanwhile, Bobby, Rafaela's Chinese husband, helps an illegal immigrant; Buzzman, a good samaritan in the 'hood, becomes a TV star; Archangel, a mysterious performance artist, heads to L.A. to wrestle with SUPERNAFTA in the ultimate wrestling contest; and, above the almost motionless freeways, an old Japanese man conducts an imaginary orchestra. Yamashita clearly means to offer some kind of wake-up call, but it gets lost in the profusion of plotlines and characters. Los Angeles's own apocalypse, with a great cast but poor direction and a story too rigorously intent on sending a message.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-56889-064-0

Page Count: 275

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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