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Just keeps getting better as you turn the pages.

Stories that can make you believe that doing cocaine all day in a cheap motel is fun or that catching bugs is a great way to spend your childhood.

Parsons’ debut collection is not long on plot, but wisdom and humor are so thick on the ground you could find a sentence worth quoting on every page. “The first rule of filing is…nothing comes before something.” “There are tricks to coping with a surly person you’ve brought into the world. Focus on the positive.” “I have no idea why sports and religion intermingle—they just do. It seems some people take Jesus for a jock.” Two characters at the Starlite motel in Houston: “There are only two things people do in places like this….And we’ve already done all the drugs.” Only they haven’t—co-workers Jill and Rick are taking a holiday from their lives and from their spouses (code-named Eyelash and Kneecap at a previous happy hour), and new baggies of powder keep turning up right till quittin’ time. They are one of many memorable pairs in these stories, several of which are about the blurry line between friendship and love. The narrator of “Glow Hunter” is crazy about her friend Bo, who is just “more brightly lit than the rest of us.…I’ve seen strangers stop what they’re doing to watch her shake sugar into her tea.” Bo and the narrator have both been involved with a guy named Jeff, but what they really want is each other. The narrator of “Black Light” is in love with a point guard on the girls basketball team; she is counseled, then consoled by her older brother. (“ 'Dick,' he said, done with subtlety. 'She needs dick.' ”) Comparisons have been made to Denis Johnson, Karen Russell, Carmen Maria Machado…and we’ll add Angela Carter. The Angela Carter of Lubbock, Texas. It has a ring to it.

Just keeps getting better as you turn the pages.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-56350-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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