A small tale about an ordinary man—though one with unusual resonance for gay men who’ve outgrown “the scene.”


When his partner of 15 years leaves him, middle-aged gay Joel Lingeman is forced to come to terms with his past fantasies and reexamine things as they are.

Joel has lived on autopilot for years, sleepwalking through a passionless relationship and working in a dull Capitol Hill job that would offend his political sensibilities if he took it more seriously. But when Sam, his live-in lover, walks out, Joel is jolted into consciousness. In fits and starts, he attempts to build a new social life and to speak up at work. It isn’t easy to get back into the DC dating scene; he was never adept at meeting guys, and now—overweight, unkempt, and a bit long in the tooth—he’s having an even harder time. Meanwhile, on the Hill, nasty antigay legislation inches closer to becoming law, but Joel fails to appreciate the danger until it’s too late. Though he can’t muster the moxie to fix his love life or come out to Congress, Joel shows surprising determination in tracking down a swimsuit model who appeared in an ad in 1964, fueling Joel’s adolescent dreams and shaping his adult notions of physical desire. What he hopes to find by locating this man is a mystery, but the search itself helps him discover how he ended up where he did. Sometimes, Merlis posits, it’s necessary to look backward and make peace with our former selves to move forward. Less insightful than his dazzling debut, American Studies (1994), and less ambitious than An Arrow’s Flight (1998), but, still, this is carefully worded, with the author’s flair for subtle introspection and keen observation. The characters’ outward interactions may seem unremarkable, and the settings—Congress and gay bars—alternately comic and tragic, but Merlis reaches a level of thoughtful reflection that sings with poignancy.

A small tale about an ordinary man—though one with unusual resonance for gay men who’ve outgrown “the scene.”

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-00-715611-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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