A first novel that deserved hardcovers.

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TOO MUCH OF NOTHING

A prosperous beginning for San Francisco-based reporter and stage critic Moore.

In 1984, high-school sophomore Eric Sperling died during a car accident with his violently upset buddy Tom Linden at the wheel. Fifteen years later, in purgatory, Eric’s lonely ghost still hangs about Calaveras beach in South Los Angeles, trying to haunt Tom—who actually murdered Eric, who wants vengeance. Vengeance may consist of awakening Tom to the foulness of his deed in murdering his friend, although Tom has spent some years in jail for the death he caused while smashed out of his mind. Throughout the story, we know only that it happened in a car that struck the back end of a big truck. Eric has never seen another spirit like himself, although he’s become a spiritual Jewish being who studies in purgatory, in purgatory, in purgatory, a set of the 20-volume Zohar. In fact, he reads a lot in nearby libraries, and his tale illustrates an aspect of Jewish mysticism. He also has some physical abilities—to make floors creak, slam doors, even to float high over the beach. Back in their high-school days, Tom’s alcoholic father died by falling off a fishing boat and striking his head on the prop. Tom lives with his German-American mother and has been sucked into the violent mindset of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. He slips LSD into a teacher’s coffee and is later expelled for a year. Repellent though Tom is, Rachel falls for him and becomes his lover. Then Rachel accepts Eric as a lover as well, and when Tom finds out he kills Eric. While much of the story offers a big mix of secondary cultural figures, it turns on Tom’s character, his hardening in prison, his strange later life as he becomes his father, lies around stoned and drunk and shielded by booze from even seeing or hearing Eric until the unbearable moment comes when the dead boy appears before him.

A first novel that deserved hardcovers.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7867-1196-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel.

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DEATH IN HER HANDS

A note suggesting a woman has been killed in the woods captures the imagination of an elderly woman, with alarming intensity.

Vesta, the extremely unreliable narrator of Moshfegh’s fourth novel (My Year of Rest and Relaxation, 2018, etc.), is a 72-year-old widow who’s recently purchased a new home, a cabin on a former Girl Scout camp. Walking her dog through the nearby woods, she sees a note lying on the ground which says that a woman named Magda has been killed "and here is her dead body," but there's no body there or any sign of violence. Call the police? Too easy: Instead, Vesta allows herself to be consumed with imagining what Magda might have been like and the circumstances surrounding her murder. Whatever the opposite of Occam’s razor is, Vesta’s detective work is it: After some web searching on how mystery writers do their work, she surmises that Magda was a Belarussian teen sent to the United States to work at a fast-food restaurant, staying in the basement of a woman whose son, Blake, committed the murder. Moshfegh on occasion plays up the comedy of Vesta’s upside-down thinking: “A good detective presumes more than she interrogates.” But Vesta slowly reveals herself as what we might now call a Moshfegh-ian lead: a woman driven to isolation and feeling disassociated from herself, looking for ways to cover up for a brokenness she's loath to confront. Over the course of the novel, Vesta’s projections about Magda's identity become increasingly potent and heartbreaking symbols of wounds from the narrator's childhood and marriage. The judgmental voice of her late husband, Walter, keeps rattling in her head, and she defiantly insists that “I didn’t want Walter in my mindspace anymore. I wanted to know things on my own.” You simultaneously worry about Vesta and root for her, and Moshfegh’s handling of her story is at once troubling and moving.

An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel. (This book has been postponed; we'll update the publication date when it's available.)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7935-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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