The 1980's are made dull in this undistinguished first novel, set in New York City, about an editorial assistant at a magazine and her off-beat friends and colleagues. Catherine Clemson is the assistant to Fran, the backstabbing, fickle entertainment page editor of a third-rate magazine called Women. When her staid boyfriend, Daniel, leaves for a long business trip to Rome, Catherine decides that it is time she found another guy. In between mediocre dates with random men, Catherine tries on feather boas and whines about her low salary, stagnant career, and frustrating love life. Listening to her is her gay, transvestite best friend Joey, who works in the art department of Women and is obsessed with meeting Andy Warhol. When at last Catherine encounters a man—Wall Street heavy Michael—to whom she is attracted, it turns out he is already involved with Fran. This does not put a damper on their attraction, which results in an abortion for Catherine, sex between Joey and Michael, and bad blood between Fran and Catherine when Fran discovers her deceit. Catherine immerses herself in her work—which includes trying to get a comment from Mick Jagger on his sensual pout—to escape the ruin her personal life has become. Joey dies of AIDS; Catherine is promoted when Fran leaves the magazine; and at the end, Catherine is alone but content. The elements for a light, fun read—silly situations, campy times, and some humorous writing—never come together here. The pace suffers as McMullan's hollow, dissatisfied characters lumber along with no direction, and a sturdy, plausible plot is replaced by trite conventions and 1980's kitsch. What would Andy say?

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-89594-651-3

Page Count: 204

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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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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