CALIFORNIA'S OVER

The struggles of the proudly eccentric family of a once-famous poet who's committed suicide lie at the heart of this kaleidoscopic comedy, which dazzlingly illuminates the exact moment when the '60s disintegrated into terminal narcissism and gave birth to today's entropic culture. Jones (Particles and Luck, 1993, etc.) spins out an audacious plot focusing on a pivotal four days in 1973 when the children of James Farmican, a beatnik who blew his brains out three years earlier, are finally compelled to give up their father's decaying labyrinth of a Victorian mansion. ``California's over,'' says their beautiful self-absorbed mother, Julia, now married to psychiatrist Faro Ness, whose oozing '60s sensitivity can't hide the fact that he has seized almost all of the family's assets. Two children, Peter and Wendy, are casualties of too much Peter Pan whimsy; their long-lost brother Ed, given up for adoption to a ``normal'' family, has arrived to claim his inheritance. Observing all this is Steve, the callow 17-year-old who had been hired to clean out the house. Falling (naturally) under their spell, the interloper has already managed to impregnate Wendy; he follows her and her siblings to Nevada, where Ed wants to resurrect his father's shuttered Cornucopia Casino. Writing 20 years later, Steve describes how Peter gambled himself into debt to gangsters, and how Wendy let a Christian cardsharp convince her that she could pay off her brother's debt (and save her unborn child) by serving clients in the Ecstacy Ranch brothel. The novel circles around to Steve's account of meeting Wendy again after 20 years, the two reuniting not because she loves him, but because she needs him to pose as her husband in order to contest Faro Ness's control over the now sizable estate. Jones performs an act of alchemy here, burnishing the bitter and petty betrayals of an era with a lyrical anguish that makes Steve's aching regret feel universal. (First printing of 25,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-42334-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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