The author’s basic strategic error inflicts serious damage on several tactical beauties. A collection that should have...

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THE GIRL IN THE FALL-AWAY DRESS

STORIES

Half a dozen wonderful stories surrounded by filler.

This first collection from Richmond (Writing/City College of San Francisco) concerns one Alabama family. Here’s what we know about them: there are four daughters, one of them a lesbian; a baby boy was miscarried a week before his due date; both Mom and Dad almost abandoned the family in separate moments of crisis. Connected stories are supposed to bring cohesion to the collection, but here the connections only confuse and suggest that this is actually a novel that didn’t work. It’s regrettable, because Richmond is very talented and has no need of a gimmick; her best pieces are only vaguely related to the purported thrust. Among the treasures are “Propaganda,” a dreamy tale of intimacy and intrigue about the stories that the lonely tell themselves to make their situation bearable; “Down the Shore Everything’s All Right,” in which one daughter breaks up with her boyfriend, who believes that an old story about Bruce Springsteen can save their relationship; and “Intermittent Waves of Unusual Size and Force,” in which another daughter trades histories with Dad only to discover that what happens in life is only as important as how we choose to remember it. The briefest pieces, vignettes that feel like abandoned story beginnings, try to convince us that the collection has something to say about Alabama, but the rest of the tales travel widely, to New York, San Francisco, and Reykjavik. Richmond’s vision is larger than a quirky corner of America; she’s interested in the truth revealed through lies of the heart opened wide, and in the deceit of history.

The author’s basic strategic error inflicts serious damage on several tactical beauties. A collection that should have remained just a collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55849-315-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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