A strange and haunting art project.

GUESTBOOK

This multimedia collection of ghost stories uses found photographs, architectural plans, social media comments, and illustrations to create artifacts of grief and loss.

In her essay about the persistence of ghost stories in American literature, critic Parul Sehgal suggests the form survives because it allows writers to offer "social critiques camouflaged with cobwebs." Yet, in her latest collection, Shapton (Swimming Studies, 2012, etc.) uses ephemera not to catalog our social ills but to collect evidence of well-heeled lives at risk of being forgotten or brushed aside. The effect is diffuse and eerie, more often mood than assertion or plot. In one story, a professional tennis player listens to the advice of his invisible friend, Walter, in order to win matches. Eventually he's driven mad by the ghost's demands. In another piece, Shapton catalogs social media comments for an unseen photograph. The comments are stripped of most punctuation and almost all context; the chorus of approval dances around a body the reader will never see. Occasionally a first-person narrator encounters others at cocktail parties, where she learns of still more ghosts haunting her acquaintances. Shapton's vignettes are at their strongest when she imagines the hidden lives of inanimate objects, as in "Sirena de Gali," which pairs vintage clothing descriptions with brief scenes from the lives of their former owners. There's often a playfulness to her texts, too, as when she juxtaposes historical photographs of the iceberg that downed the Titanic with scribbled notes from a restaurant manager trying to appease her rich but ill-mannered clientele. When Shapton doesn't gravitate toward gothic photos of dark houses and empty beds, she is invested in trying to capture the feeling of bodies that have just left a room, whether living or dead, real or imagined. "Living without what the photo does not give back," reads one cryptic caption. "What you don't see. What you don't get to see." We may not always get to see the lives of others, Shapton seems to say, but still they were here.

A strange and haunting art project.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-15818-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot...

THE RULES OF MAGIC

The Owens sisters are back—not in their previous guise as elderly aunties casting spells in Hoffman’s occult romance Practical Magic (1995), but as fledgling witches in the New York City captured in Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids.

In that magical, mystical milieu, Franny and Bridget are joined by a new character: their foxy younger brother, Vincent, whose “unearthly” charm sends grown women in search of love potions. Heading into the summer of 1960, the three Owens siblings are ever more conscious of their family's quirkiness—and not just the incidents of levitation and gift for reading each other's thoughts while traipsing home to their parents' funky Manhattan town house. The instant Franny turns 17, they are all shipped off to spend the summer with their mother's aunt in Massachusetts. Isabelle Owens might enlist them for esoteric projects like making black soap or picking herbs to cure a neighbor's jealousy, but she at least offers respite from their fretful mother's strict rules against going shoeless, bringing home stray birds, wandering into Greenwich Village, or falling in love. In short order, the siblings meet a know-it-all Boston cousin, April, who brings them up to speed on the curse set in motion by their Salem-witch ancestor, Maria Owens. It spells certain death for males who attempt to woo an Owens woman. Naturally this knowledge does not deter the current generation from circumventing the rule—Bridget most passionately, Franny most rationally, and Vincent most recklessly (believing his gender may protect him). In time, the sisters ignore their mother's plea and move to Greenwich Village, setting up an apothecary, while their rock-star brother, who glimpsed his future in Isabelle’s nifty three-way mirror, breaks hearts like there's no tomorrow. No one's more confident or entertaining than Hoffman at putting across characters willing to tempt fate for true love.

Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot twist—delivering everything fans of a much-loved book could hope for in a prequel.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3747-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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