A collection with an admirable intent.

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SEA SNAILS ON A BLACK CHOW'S TONGUE

A collection of poems that reflects on our basic aloneness in this life.

The poems in Sea Snails are poems of ideas rather than of emotions–meditative, philosophical and preoccupied with isolation and solitude. Harvey (Petroglyphs, 2008, etc.) uses two recurring images–the snail and the shipwrecked sailor–to explore our solitary plight on earth. Poems such as “Life on the Under Leaf” and “The Myth of the Snail” argue that our journey is like that of the snail–long, solitary and fixed, every day a limited journey “from the rose leaf / to the yard’s loam / alone.” At the same time, the collection draws comparisons between our lives and that of a shipwrecked sailor, left to struggle alone on a deserted island and to try to reach out for others with a message that may or may not be understood or answered–if found at all. In addition to snails, these poems are peopled with literal sailors, writers and readers–individuals who identify their aloneness and yet seek solace in myth-making, ascribing to the familiar belief that we create stories to explain away chaos, bond with others and protect ourselves from the finite experience that is life. While Harvey can be commended for tapping into universal questions about our existence and for experimenting with form–including poems that range from haiku to narrative prose, ultimately this variety in form cannot distract from the fact that, by the book’s end–these two themes have been reworked so many times that its message becomes diluted and trite. More thematic variation would be welcome, so that readers don’t grow weary of an otherwise valuable sentiment.

A collection with an admirable intent.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4401-7887-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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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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