LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS

New York is colonized by giant talking canines in newcomer Bakis's wry variation on the traditional shaggy dog story. Imagination is the key here. We need to understand that at the end of the 19th century a crazed German biologist named Augustus Rank performed a succession of medical experiments that resulted in a weird genetic mutation of his subjects and created a race of ``monster dogs''—giant rottweilers and Dobermans who can speak and walk on their hind legs. After living for more than a hundred years in the seclusion of a remote Canadian settlement called Rankstadt, they are forced to move in the year 2008 to New York (where 150 of them take up residence at the Plaza Hotel) when Rankstadt is destroyed. In their 19th-century garb—Prussian military uniforms for the ``men,'' bustles for the ``women''—they cut impressive figures on the streets of Manhattan, where they quickly become celebrities and philanthropists. At Christmas they parade down Fifth Avenue in sleighs, and shortly after their arrival they construct an enormous Bavarian castle on the Lower East Side. When an NYU coed named Cleo Pira writes about them for a local newspaper, the dogs adopt her as their spokesperson and bring her into the inner life of their society. From Cleo's perspective the dogs are benign, quaint, and deeply tragic, and the more fascinated she becomes by their history—both as they relate it to her and as she discovers it for herself through Rank's own archives—the darker and more doomed their society appears. By the time Cleo has learned the secrets contained in Rank's past, it's too late to save his descendants, who have unknowingly brought about their own destruction. Serious enough, but also funny and imaginative: a vivid parable that manages to amuse even as it perplexes and intrigues.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-18987-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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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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