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

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I SEE LONDON, I SEE FRANCE...

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. 13, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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