NIETZSCHE AND THE BURBS

A group of prep schoolers reckon with their ennui thanks to doom metal and a new classmate nicknamed after a famous nihilist.

Iyer has found a niche in seriocomic fiction about very serious philosophers: Wittgenstein Jr (2014) was a funny campus novel about logic, and this follow-up is a funny campus novel about despair. At its center is a group of students in Wokingham, 20 miles away from London, eager to finish classes and move on with their lives. But as their final semester begins, a new arrival, kicked out of his previous school under vague circumstances, at once unsettles their relationships and sharpens their cynicism. The new boy scribbles “NIHILISM” in his notebook, is prone to dark and gnomic pronouncements in class (“All things die in time”), and maintains a blog musing on the meaning(lessness) of suburbia (“Nothing will happen here….Unless the voiding of time is itself an event”). His dour temperament quickly earns him the nickname Nietzsche. (We never learn his real name.) The clique soon welcomes him at school and, later, at band practice, where they’re laboring on droning, sludgy rock that evokes their angst. Iyer neatly captures the way Nietzsche’s philosophy of the eternal return is a perfect fit for cynical teenagers who are sure it’s all been done, but Iyer also wants to explore how frantic teenage emotions challenge their assurances; suicide, love, sex, and self-destructive instincts all figure in the plot. As for comedy, Iyer has a knack for the one-upping banter that demonstrates maturity and insecurity at the same time. The cycles of hope-despair-repeat among the characters get repetitive, but credit Iyer for thinking big: That little garage band is determined to “start a new society” and be a “clue to a new way of life.”

Dark, brooding fun.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61219-812-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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