VANISHING POINT

Octogenarian West (The Lovers, 1993, etc.) shows that his veins still run with fictive silver as he returns to the problems of manic-depression he limned in his 1983 novel about Jung, The World is Made of Glass. West's 26th novel demonstrates his genius for detail: Each story-heavy page also carries engrossing (and relevant) arcana on the fine arts, high finance, and psychology. Genius financier Larry Lucas, who burns brightly but masks dark depths, vanishes, having pulled off a $5 billion deal for Strassberger & Company in New York. Married to the daughter of Emil Strassberger, his boss, and the father of two children, Larry suffers from a mood disorder and has chosen to quit the company and his marriage while at the peak of his career—entering what artists call the ``vanishing point'' in rendering perspective. Larry's artist brother-in-law Carl, meanwhile, is called home from his French village to seek out the lost Larry. The search carries Carl back to France and then on to Italy and Switzerland, as well as deep into the toils of international finance. Larry has surrendered his considerable fortune and his Strassberger bonds to a financier who funds a shady travel service that helps people disappear and start new lives. By the time Carl finally faces Larry at a Jungian hospital in Zurich, he has also faced a number of devious and violent characters, been duped and almost destroyed by a crushingly intelligent villain, and sampled a smorgasbord of sex and great cuisine in fabulous hotels along the way. Also enviable: West's photographic eye for scene-setting, buildings, and European landscape, not to mention human appearances. Only his whetstoned dialogue at times bulks up with space-saving, informational rather than dramatic cadences—but few will care. Amazing cultural grasp from a writer who seems to have been born knowing everything. (International author tour)

Pub Date: July 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-101069-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1996

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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