The quiet reflection of this jewel of a novel is revelatory, redemptive and hypnotic until the last word.

I CALLED HIM NECKTIE

Two strangers, 20-year-old Taguchi Hiro and middle-aged “salaryman” Ohara Tetsu, emerge from clouds of grief and shame in this meditative novel. 

Hiro and Tetsu meet at a park and for two weeks cautiously observe each other on opposite benches before engaging in conversation. Hiro, a hikikomori or shut-in, hasn’t left the confines of his bedroom for two years, except to use the bathroom and receive trays of food his mother leaves outside his door: “When I think back to that first walk out, I feel as if I was a figure in black and white walking through a color film. All around the brightness screamed.” Tetsu, whom Hiro nicknames Necktie, has recently lost his job and spends his days at the park to avoid his wife, Kyoko, who thinks that when she sends him off in the morning with a bento lunch, he’s heading to work: “So long as there is hope, I’d rather not know how it would be if I told her the truth.” Illusions and feigned indifference trap both men like insects in amber, until Hiro nods an invitation to Tetsu to share the same park bench. What follows is a delicate courtship in which suspicion and judgment give way to a gracious, endearing friendship. As Hiro and Tetsu eulogize loved ones and confess personal failings, they release each other from sorrow. Flašar, a Japanese-Austrian novelist who was longlisted for the German Book Prize in 2012, captures their narratives with spare, sparkling prose in 114 poetic chapters.

The quiet reflection of this jewel of a novel is revelatory, redemptive and hypnotic until the last word.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-939931-14-6

Page Count: 210

Publisher: New Vessel Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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