Caught in a riptide between noir and farce, emerging as too little of either.

NIAGARA

It’s a long drop from Warhol Factory actress Woronov’s stunning debut, Snake (2000), to these watery depths of tangled sexual congress and parental neglect—but some of her former and insouciant handling of reality survives.

Drunken Molly’s weaving through a California supermarket parking lot looking for her car as the story opens, but in order to see the car she first has to remember who she is. So her childhood within earshot of Niagara Falls comes flooding back to her in images of her intense Chinese mother running a card table at an Indian-owned casino, of her unemployed steelworker father shrinking into himself and his booze beneath his wife’s scorn, of her newfound half-brother Kenny, who shared with her his obsession of going over the Falls in a barrel. Having survived to high school, Molly (real name Mei Li) and Kenny find more to share than the barrel: she makes him her lover, while her “boyfriend” Bobby, school beefcake and quarterback, hangs around in hopes of a kiss. When Kenny presumably dies going over in his barrel at graduation, however, Bobby has his opening, marrying Molly and taking her to California, where he becomes a successful car salesman—a life change that turns her into a drunk. Coming home to Buffalo for her father’s funeral a few years later, she catches a glimpse of Kenny (who her mother believes is the angel of death), and her marriage with Bobby hits the skids. Summoned to Florida, where Mom now lives, Molly finds her in the throes of Alzheimer’s and discovers Kenny nearby—in drag. He’s always been gay, apparently, and kept busy in high school servicing the football team, Bobby included. Reeling from this revelation, Molly returns to hubby in a conciliatory mood, but even with Bobby willing their hopes are all wet.

Caught in a riptide between noir and farce, emerging as too little of either.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-85242-801-5

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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