I SEE LONDON, I SEE FRANCE...

A wildly amusing fictional memoir that sometimes tries too hard to be funny.

An eccentric American family goes on a European vacation and becomes entangled in a web of criminal conspiracy in this comic novel. 

Victor Emmanuel Popper—the fictional author of this humorous “memoir”—is a mere 12 years old but confidently assures readers he “scored sinfully high on IQ tests.” He narrates this tale of an adventure gone wrong from the perch of nearly deranged precociousness, an often intoxicating brew of gimlet-eyed observations and slapstick surrealism. Victor decamps Seattle with his family—a “doubtful… group of cosmopolites”—on a 42-day “deluxe tour of Europe” that visits a litany of major cities, including London, Amsterdam, Cologne, and Vienna, among others. His entourage is an eclectic mix of oddities: His mother, Penny, is an art history professor–turned–astrology guru. His sister, Anna Karenina, is a 15-year-old “parody of teenagerness,” and his brother, Edgar Allan Poe, is a 5-year-old boy “already subject to violent mood swings.” Victor’s accompanying uncle is a psychiatrist, a “mad doctor” who hypnotizes the children when they’re in need of pacification: “You’re getting sleepy. TV is not real. The sitcoms are not funny, and the dramas contain material not suitable for children. When I count to three….” While leaving London, Victor’s father, Max, is detained by police under suspicion of smuggling Russian art icons and taken to Scotland Yard, apparently “manned principally by bumbling idiots.” Victor takes it upon himself to clear his father’s good name and undertakes an investigation of his own, convinced one of the other tour members is the true culprit. In this manic novel, Hummasti (Four Ways To Square a Circle, 2018) has an extraordinarily well developed sense of life’s absurdity and finds traces of it in every crevasse of human affairs. In addition, his indefatigable inventiveness can be genuinely funny, though the relentlessness of the humor—there’s hardly a sentence without a one-liner—can become a bit exhausting. The comedy can also be schlocky—there is a pair of Australian lawyers named Mr. and Mrs. Dingo, a Greek called Mr. Zorba, and Max’s lawyer is Mr. Fitzfrisky.

A wildly amusing fictional memoir that sometimes tries too hard to be funny. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73228-511-8

Page Count: 289

Publisher: Svensen Pioneer Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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