BAD DREAMS

Riotously inventive horror fantasy, the second novel by the author of the wildly original The Night Mayor (1990). Newman trumps up some superbly clever devices here, and at last creates a heroine we can care about, or almost care about, before she fades into the Dreamscape. The American sisters Anne and Judi Neilson and their half-brother Cameron Neilson III (a famous minimalist composer), children of Nobel Prize playwright Cameron Neilson, live in London, where Anne writes and Judi, a junkie S&M prostitute, hires herself out to be beaten. In the first chapter, Judi is eaten alive while turning a trick, or has the blood and most of her flesh sucked out of her, as well as her mind and memory, by Mr. Skinner, a vampire known as the King of the Cats, or leader of the Kind, who was once a master of the now-vanished Immortal Empire. Very few vampires still walk about, and Mr. Skinner himself has only one rival, Ariadne, a sexy vamp much older, smarter, and more powerful than he. Anne tries to trace Judi's path through the whoreworld to find out just how her sister's corpse had aged into a very old woman's. Judi's prostitute friend Nina leads Anne to the mansion of Amelia Dorf (``It was the kind of quietly well-off residential street where mass murderers live...''—a kind of Karloffian understatement) where an S&M party is in full swing, ruled by the Game Master, Mr. Skinner. We'll say no more, only that Mr. Skinner's vampirism is a boldly invented passionate state that can barely be contained by human form; that the Old Dark House becomes a dream house in which rooms lead into mindrooms into dreamrooms; that at one point Mr. Skinner falls into a feeding frenzy and eats up the whole party, then licks his lizard-long tongue at Anne and begins chasing her through the walls.... When you meet Mr. Skinner, remember that he bears the memories of all his victims, and that when you join him you join all of them as well. Comforting.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 1991

ISBN: 0-88184-781-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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