Next book

WINTER'S TALE

From the very first sequence here (a white milk-cart horse bounds over the newly-built Brooklyn Bridge in a bid for freedom), Helprin makes it clear that he's out to conquer the Latin-American-style genre of magic realism—with splendid worlds of the impossible-made-possible, with concentrated storytelling designed to vibrate and shine on each page. The white horse effortlessly becomes mythic Athansor, who can also fly; he will rescue a virtuous young 19th-century burglar named Peter Lake from a mob of his evil ex-cronies, the Short Tails; Peter will later hide up behind the stars set into the ceiling of Grand Central Station, meeting newspaper-tycoon Isaac Penn's beautiful, dying daughter Beverly (who will become his Beatrice). And then a huge cloud-wall imprisons Peter and preserves him from eternal death. . . to spit him out nearly a hundred years later, near the millennial year of 2000—when New York City is facing destruction from its rampaging poor, from its corrupt power-brokers (e.g., a boobishly villainous newspaper publisher a  la Rupert Murdoch), and from apocalyptic winters. There's a magic salver, a rainbow-tech bridge; there are valiant, virtuous heroes and heroines. And Helprin tirelessly, artfully strings variation upon variation—the fabulous recapitulating itself in different disguises and in lovely, serene yet vibrant, harmonic sentences. (Especially notable: the scenes involving travel or machinery.) Yet, for all this surface appeal, there's little substance here, with New York City's glories and injustices the only real subject-matter. If anything, in fact, the novel seems to be a celebration of Helprin's empyrean, breathtaking technique—his zeal for recapitulation, for enchanting the reader into timeless innocence and memory, for putting his sparkly material through hoop after hoop of painless fabulizing. And the result is talemaking of avid genius, rarely silly or cheap, frequently stunningly poetic—but also more than a little stupefying and show-offy, without the core of seriousness that gave focus and integrity to John Crowley's similar Little, Big (1981).

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1983

ISBN: 0156031191

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983

Categories:
Next book

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

Categories:
Next book

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

Categories:
Close Quickview