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For those who appreciate the joys of a vicarious bender and the satisfaction of watching creepy people decompensate.

A reckless, self-destructive young woman returns home to sunny Southern California after being cut loose by the boss she’s sleeping with.

Meet Elsa (also Susanna and Ingrid, depending on which one-night stand she’s introducing herself to), a beautiful loser on a dangerous tear. “It’s just past breakfast so I order up a pitcher of Bloody Marys and a bagel.…I shower with my drink and take one of Mother’s Vicodins. Let it begin, I think, rolling myself into one of the hotel bathrobes, the fabric soft and vibrantly white, wonderfully impersonal. Let it begin.” Elsa was given a cushy severance package when she was let go by the Museum of Modern Art, where she had been having an affair with her boss, a top curator, for two years, since the night he learned his son had been killed in Afghanistan. Nice. Now she’s flown to Bakersfield, stolen all her mother’s medications, and is holed up in a swanky hotel in Los Angeles while she reconnects with her old posse, from whom she’s concealing the real reason for her “vacation.” The group includes her ex-husband, Robby, and his buff new girlfriend, Jane; her childhood best friend, Charly, and husband Jared, on shaky ground due to Jared’s roving eye and their difficulty conceiving a child; and a new member of the group, Tom, a slimy work associate of the men whose appeal lies primarily in his yacht. Off they all sail to the island of Catalina, where the lying, drinking, and pill-popping escalate to no good end. The narrative tone of Jacobs’ debut echoes the numbed nihilism of Bret Easton Ellis’ early work, and her protagonist is just as lovely a person as his infamous characters.

For those who appreciate the joys of a vicarious bender and the satisfaction of watching creepy people decompensate.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-11975-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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