Superbly imagined lit-fic about family, fathers and film.

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DOUBLE FEATURE

Gen-Y angst riffles the pages of King’s (We’re All in this Together, 2005) debut novel.

This is an often weirdly funny book, all the same. Samuel Dolan graduated from a liberal arts college in upstate New York. His girlfriend, Polly, left to live with her parents in Florida. Sam’s mother is dead, and Sam doesn’t much like his father, Booth. Booth Dolan has made a career out of scenery-chewing in B-movies—and doing what he wants, including chasing skirts. Sam’s passionate ambition is his indie film, Who We Are, "about the costs of growing up—and the costs of not growing up. And that was heavy stuff." Sam makes his film, but the film that finds its way into print isn’t the film he made, thanks to the crazed machinations of Brooks, an unstable assistant director Sam took on since he was a rich kid who chipped in big bucks. Years later, Sam ends up in Brooklyn doing "weddingography," themed if you like—Grindhouse, Nouvelle Vague or Citizen Wedding. And Who We Are? It’s a cult film "playing to packed, goofy, inebriated houses," complete with the Brooks-inserted masturbating satyr and other aberrations. There are even residual checks, which Sam refuses to cash. King’s characters are both attractive and realistic, not only larger-than-life Booth and disaffected Sam, but also Allie, Sam’s mother, who was always cool and accepting, even of Booth’s "blithe selfishness." There’s Mina, Sam’s wise and fragile half sister; Polly, who still beds Sam even after marrying a buffoonish retired Yankee baseball player; Rick Savini, an eccentric yet successful character actor who treats Sam as an equal; and television producer Tess, earnest and bossy, whom Sam meets as he films a wedding. The narrative blossoms and unfolds and expands, Sam becoming wiser and more likable, even as he reconciles with his world at a happily-enough-ever-after homecoming. Unique in concept and execution, with much mention of Orson Welles and Dog Day Afternoon, King's novel is winning.    

Superbly imagined lit-fic about family, fathers and film.

Pub Date: March 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7689-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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