Auster writes of “the obsessive story that has wormed its way into your soul and become an integral part of your being.”...

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INVISIBLE

Many readers familiar with the work of Paul Auster consider him to be one of the most profound and provocative of contemporary novelists, a literary magician, a master of making fiction about the art—or the sleight-of-hand illusion—of making fiction.

Auster attracted a loyal following in the mid-1980s for what was subsequently known as his New York Trilogy—an elliptical trio of genre subversions and meditations on identity—but his reviews have been mixed in the two decades since the subsequent Moon Palace and The Music of Chance. Now comes Invisible, a novel of such virtuosity and depth that it should not only unite the faithful in a hallelujah chorus, it deserves to draw legions of converts as well. More than a return to form, this might be Auster’s best novel yet, combining his postmodern inquiries into the nature of fiction and the essence of identity—the interplay between life and art—with a thematic timelessness in its narrative of virtue and evil, guilt and redemption. If this isn’t quite Auster’s Crime and Punishment, it could be his Notes from the Underground. It’s also a novel he couldn’t have written a couple of decades ago, during what was previously considered his peak. Though it concerns a 20-year-old, literary-minded student at Columbia University in 1967—when the literary-minded Auster was the same age at the same university—its narrative reflects the autumnal perspective of four decades later, with a protagonist whose life has taken different turns than Auster’s. In fact, there are three distinct narrative voices, as sections employ the first-person “I,” the second-person “you” and the third person “he” in relating the story of how the student’s encounter with a visiting professor from Paris and his silent, seductive girlfriend changes the lives of all three and others as well. The labyrinth of plot and narrative also includes the student’s beautiful sister, a mother and daughter in France through whom he seeks atonement and a fellow Columbia alum who has become, like Auster, a successful writer. There are sins, obsessions, a corpse and a thin line between fantasy and memory. To reveal more would rob the reader of the discoveries inherent within this novel’s multilayered richness.

Auster writes of “the obsessive story that has wormed its way into your soul and become an integral part of your being.” This is that story.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9080-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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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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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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