From poet Scalapino, three anti-novellas that are composed in about equal parts of the automatic writing of Gertrude Stein, the self-parodying storytelling of, say, Robbe-Grillet, and the epistemological doubts of Beckett that words and reality are connectedwith combined results, however ambitious or high- intended, that are in about equal degrees unreadable, unpleasant, and unrewarding. What's commonly called ``characterization'' plays no part here as a woman, in a voice that seems to be her own, goes monotonously on and on from incident to incident, then often back again from incident to incidentshootings, killings, walkings on beaches and highways, laconic sexual episodes, shoppings at marketswith care never to allow a climax to be developed, a clear image to emerge for longer than half a breath, or a resting placewhere reader could pause, savor, or (merciful god) understand and relaxto take place. To make things tougher, syntax is routinely crumpled out of shape, lest the reader be allowed to get up some comforting speed or stride in this arid and self-destructing mine field or anti- story: ``As the person being nothing, in that Ronald Reagan (so it's not in the future) as the old aged apparently formed by Nancy as if light dancers in shorts orange and in green tops skipping (their) frolickingand no connection which there isn't to them those dancers really, in grueling repression of circumstance.'' What is the meaning of all this? Perhaps it can be plucked out in lines like these, about unrelatedness: ``She returns to the clinic. She has no relation to this. Though there is a relation to the retina. There is no way to live.'' Both society and language, it seems, are repressive and built on lies, unrelated to reality, leaving as a way toward truth only writing and the selfboth of these, too, gravely in doubt. Everything is solipsism. However fascinating its philosophic underpinnings, the result here is lamentably without even the distantmost warmths of beauty, allure, or enchantment. In a word: tedious, oh tedious, most tedious!

Pub Date: May 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-86547-469-9

Page Count: 234

Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1991

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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