A quick, sometimes-frustrating read that may inspire in-depth conversation but that’s compromised by rambling verbosity.

THE 2020 CANDIDATE

Miller (Guilty or Innocent, 2011, etc.) jumps into the 2020 presidential race with a new and unusual fictional candidate.

A man named Harold, who admits to being “a screwball in a novel,” introduces himself as a 73-year-old man who’s obsessed with the idea of running for president in the next election. As the story opens, it’s “November 9, 2016. Trump won.” Although Harold realizes that he himself is “a nobody,” he figures that Trump’s victory means that he could also be “a valid candidate.” Before plunging into his policies, Harold warns readers that he’s the creation of an author who “may have some…type of aberration, himself.” One of Harold’s signature issues is the plight of the homeless. He theorizes that the answer to that problem and other “issues of concern to all of us” lies in better communication among the citizenry of the United States. To that end, Harold is an advocate of free speech “with absolutely no reservation or qualification.” If what you say or write doesn’t result in physical harm, it’s OK, he says. Even social media postings that threaten violence should be allowed, he asserts, because then we “have a chance to do something about it.” He also says that although he doesn’t agree with football players who take a knee in protest, he fully supports “their right to do so.” He’s for abortion rights and also favors state right-to-die laws. His solution to the immigration problem? Allow other countries to apply for U.S. statehood. Miller’s character is a self-deprecating gadfly who, as a presidential contender, seems designed to alternatingly please and offend readers—and in this, he’ll likely succeed. The author delivers Harold’s platform in uncomplicated prose that’s sometimes humorous. However, it also frequently slides into stream-of-consciousness rambling, which obscures his message: “So, you can read on if you wish….But you should realize that I don’t really make much sense realistically…. And further, if you took this seriously and wanted to nominate me for president, I would refuse point blank.” The candidate proposes a judicial system based on rehabilitation, to effect “a change in the lives and motivations of the criminal.” Release from prison shouldn’t be based upon time served, he says, but rather on the prisoner’s “working out the problem and changing.” At the same time, he believes that victims of crimes resulting in serious bodily injury should be able to get revenge for closure. In this way, his political positions defy classification. One minute he appears to be compassionate and concerned about social problems; the next, he seems infuriatingly obtuse. He opposes #MeToo, for instance, because he believes that it could lead to “the end of the right of [the] accused to defend himself.” He dismisses the idea of woman being “bothered in her mind all her life because a man touched her.” The victim, he asserts, “should learn to accept the innate terribleness of life.”

A quick, sometimes-frustrating read that may inspire in-depth conversation but that’s compromised by rambling verbosity.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-359-44586-8

Page Count: 91

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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