Next book

WELCOME TO HIGBY

Characters largely conventional, slightly soulful, and just a bit off their nut are the tried-and-true formula of any wacky...

The feckless frolics of a Mississippi town fill the pages of Dunn’s clever, comical second outing, which romps on the heels of his acclaimed Ella Minnow Pea (2001).

The school of hard knocks is in session in Higby, but none of the knocks is ever quite a knockout. When teenager Clint, the minister’s son still missing his mamma a couple of years after her death, falls off the town’s rickety old water-tower when the catwalk gives way, he falls into a swimming pool and emerges with only bruises. His dad, Oren, doubts himself and his faith after Clint’s mishap, but a chance encounter with the owner of Higby’s massage parlor gives him something else to think about. Meanwhile, on her way to a party at Tie’s house, a man she’s admired from afar in church, Carmen Valentine trips over a crack in the sidewalk and scrapes the skin off half her face. Deciding to skip the party, she massively rear-ends Euless’s pickup, which he’s stopped along the road to help the Alzheimer’s-befuddled brother of his mother’s best friend. Carmen decides she might like Euless better than Tie, who has by now already begun to make out with his housemate Stewie’s fiancé, who is fed up with Stewie having recently dedicated his life to Christ. As for Euless, he’s ashamed of his carnal feelings for Carmen and runs away when she takes him home. Stewie and his fiancé, on the other hand, rediscover their passion for each other in a most unlikely place. And then there’s the good-times sister of the ex-con’s girlfriend who’s kidnapped by a local religious cult.

Characters largely conventional, slightly soulful, and just a bit off their nut are the tried-and-true formula of any wacky southern farce, but success here stems also from the delightful way so many lives are seamlessly made utterly interdependent.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-931561-17-6

Page Count: 339

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

Next book

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A RETELLING

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

Next book

HEART OF DARKNESS

Gorgeous and troubling.

Cartoonist Kuper (Kafkaesque, 2018, etc.) delivers a graphic-novel adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s literary classic exploring the horror at the center of colonial exploitation.

As a group of sailors floats on the River Thames in 1899, a particularly adventurous member notes that England was once “one of the dark places of the earth,” referring to the land before the arrival of the Romans. This well-connected vagabond then regales his friends with his boyhood obsession with the blank places on maps, which eventually led him to captain a steamboat up a great African river under the employ of a corporate empire dedicated to ripping the riches from foreign land. Marlow’s trip to what was known as the Dark Continent exposes him to the frustrations of bureaucracy, the inhumanity employed by Europeans on the local population, and the insanity plaguing those committed to turning a profit. In his introduction, Kuper outlines his approach to the original book, which featured extensive use of the n-word and worked from a general worldview that European males are the forgers of civilization (even if they suffered a “soul [that] had gone mad” for their efforts), explaining that “by choosing a different point of view to illustrate, otherwise faceless and undefined characters were brought to the fore without altering Conrad’s text.” There is a moment when a scene of indiscriminate shelling reveals the Africans fleeing, and there are some places where the positioning of the Africans within the panel gives them more prominence, but without new text added to fully frame the local people, it’s hard to feel that they have reached equal footing. Still, Kuper’s work admirably deletes the most offensive of Conrad’s language while presenting graphically the struggle of the native population in the face of foreign exploitation. Kuper is a master cartoonist, and his pages and panels are a feast for the eyes.

Gorgeous and troubling.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-63564-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

Close Quickview