Allusive and acerbic: a brilliant work that proves the adage that even paranoiacs have enemies.


The always noteworthy Hungarian novelist Krasznahorkai delivers a postmodern study of alienation and exile.

The reference to Homer in the title becomes clear late in this deceptively short novel. Its unnamed narrator is a man who has been on the run for years, possibly even “decades,” sure neither of chronology nor of his pursuers. All he knows, he tells us in onrushing prose whose sentences take pages to resolve, is that “my only chance of survival is to flee—and to keep on fleeing.” One of the places to which he flees takes him into the company of a tour guide on a Croatian island who invokes both The Tempest and The Odyssey, its heroes travelers whose returns home are ever in peril. “Look here now, this is Homer, it’s not me speaking, but Homer himself, understand what I’m saying?” the tour guide harangues a Japanese couple who appear unconvinced by his reading of the epic’s opening lines, and, when he doesn’t win them over, he delivers a manifesto that could be straight out of Lenin: “The right to hospitality is finished, tourism is dead!” Tourists are everywhere in our narrator’s way, clogging up traffic across his history-haunted Europe in “herds flocked together to see the sights of a given locale, or on a train, or aboard a ship, or standing in line for food….” As he travels, the narrator muses on sanity and insanity, on (with hints of Elias Canetti) crowds and their manipulation, and on the ideal of the good transmogrified into an impediment that “lulls you and dulls you…[so that] now you can relax, stretch, crack your knuckles and kick back.” There is no rest, no comfort in thoughts of the good, for this man in flight from unknown others who may be secret police agents, assassins, or mere hunters. Particularly beguiling are the percussive sonic vignettes that accompany the book chapter by chapter, available online via QR codes at the head of each.

Allusive and acerbic: a brilliant work that proves the adage that even paranoiacs have enemies.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2797-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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