The story is long but engaging as the novel morphs into a memorial to a humanist civilization under siege, its icons not...

Sprawling bildungsroman—itself the first installment of a much larger tetralogy—of the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath in Catalonia by Barcelona-born novelist Goytisolo.

The somewhat less-well-known brother of the revered modernist Juan Goytisolo, the present author seems to have undertaken the project of creating a Catalan version of Ulysses, save that his story plays out over years rather than a single Dublin day. His is the Barcelona of delicious fish dishes and the Sagrada Familia basilica, of street vendors and intellectual cafes. His Catalonia is also a place of great violence. The novel opens as “little Moors” bustle to the front lines and fascists shave the heads of Communist girls in ugly retribution. In this milieu, a boy named Raúl Ferrer Gaminde does his best to retain the naïve innocence of childhood even as “the kids in town found a dead soldier, floating in a quiet bend of the river, all tangled up in the brambles under the water,” and so badly decomposed that no one could tell what side he was on. Raúl grows up shy and a bit reflexive in a countryside household, among casks of wine and voluble, colorful relatives, but then comes the time for him to leave for the city, long since an outpost of Francoist Spain, a place of drag queens and flamenco dancers, of smoky bars and parading soldiers, and there he becomes not just a quietly bookish intellectual, but also a Communist and, worse still, a writer. Goytisolo serves up pagelong paragraphs filled with enthusiasm and rich detail; the translation ably captures the fluidity of his prose, though it seems at times to wander in the no-man’s land between British and American English (as when a pompous lieutenant is described with a certain naughty c-word).

The story is long but engaging as the novel morphs into a memorial to a humanist civilization under siege, its icons not just Joyce, but also other modernists such as Proust and Hermann Broch. It holds up just fine in such company.

Pub Date: March 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62897-172-9

Page Count: 760

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017



The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992



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

Close Quickview