Keep telling yourself, "It's only a novel, it's only a novel" ... except an author's note at the end says it's inspired by...

WE EAT OUR OWN

This impressive debut novel chronicles the making of a shlock-schock movie in a South American jungle imbued with all-too-real late-20th-century horrors.

One would have to be a pretty desperate actor to pursue a movie role like the one our nameless young protagonist, referred to throughout in the second person, snatches like an overripe, low-hanging mango sometime in 1979. Leaving his bewildered girlfriend behind in New York, this actor hops a plane to Colombia as a last-minute lead replacement in a jungle cannibalism chiller being slapped together by an enigmatic Italian filmmaker named Ugo Velluto, who's inflamed with the idea of making something more authentically scary than usual. And real life seems to be cooperating with Ugo’s obsession: near an Amazonian shooting locale so remote that it doesn’t have a phone line, there's a cadre of revolutionary guerillas who have entered a Faustian bargain with international drug traffickers. Some of this off-screen nastiness begins to gradually overlap with the graphic grossness being orchestrated by Ugo and his crew. Meanwhile, the actor struggles to find his way—and his character—in a project that's without a script and, seemingly, without clear direction beyond whatever comes to its increasingly erratic director’s mind. Inspired by actual events, Wilson shows impressive command of a narrative that weaves back and forth and back again in both time and locale; much like the viewer of a pseudo-documentary horror movie (ever seen The Blair Witch Project?), you wonder throughout whether you should trust whatever it is you’re told—and jumping to the end won’t help at all. You shouldn’t anyway, because Wilson’s writing style is hypnotic, tightly wound, and harrowingly evocative of the story’s stifling, bug-heavy atmosphere. Even the sunniest skies of this ill-starred shoot are thick with menace and portent.

Keep telling yourself, "It's only a novel, it's only a novel" ... except an author's note at the end says it's inspired by actual events.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2831-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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