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WASH

A moving and heart-rending novel.

Wrinkle bears witness to the inhumanity of slavery in this chronicle of a Southern family in the early 19th century.

Richardson, an American soldier captured during the Revolutionary War, comes out of that experience in debt and unwilling to resume his previous life, so after the war, he begins to acquire several slaves. Although he’d just been looking for males, one female, Mena, catches his eye, and he purchases her as well. She bears a son, Wash (or Washington), who grows up under Richardson’s watchful eye. It becomes a shocking but natural progression for Richardson to analogize breeding farm animals to breeding slaves, for to Richardson both are simply valuable commodities. Because the worth of a female slave is enhanced when she has children, Wash becomes a “stud” slave. Amid this unimaginable dehumanization, Wash tries to hold on to the West African legacy he’s inherited from his mother, and he takes up with Pallas, a healer who’s also holding on to her African heritage. Wrinkle moves us effortlessly through narratives recounted by Pallas, Wash and Richardson, so we get three perspectives on the events. She also recounts much of the narrative through a more distancing third-person point of view, a perspective that helps put all three major characters in the same frame. It’s a measure of the evil of the system of slavery that Richardson is accounted a “good” owner. As he reflects, “Even a fool knows that whipping is best avoided. Makes them harder to sell. But if it needs to be done, I’ll do it myself.” His stubbornness is matched by that of Wash himself, who manages to maintain and assert his dignity in an environment that systematically tries to deprive him of it.

A moving and heart-rending novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2066-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

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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OF MICE AND MEN

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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