LOVE ENTER

Young Americans in contemporary Paris, walking a fine line between friendship and love: the idea sounds irresistible, yet for all the care Kafka has taken with his second fiction (following the novella Home Again—not reviewed), it stubbornly refuses to fly. Meet Dan and Beck (straight males, roommates) and Margot and Bou (gay women, lovers). The four of them are on an expatriate high, digging Paris, mixing their medical studies with jazz (Beck and Margot have regular gigs) and modern dance (Dan has joined a company). (Their story is being told by Dan four years later, when they have all dispersed and Dan is helping deliver babies in New Orleans; hospital scenes are awkwardly juxtaposed with memories of Paris.) When Dan meets the two women, he falls in love with them both, ``not indistinguishably but inseparably, and always,'' cherishing their relationship. Things don't stay that high-flown, and Dan doesn't stay that starry-eyed, for all along he has been more attracted to Bou, the tall exotic New Englander, than to the more familiar Margot, like Dan a middle-class Jewish only child. Dan and Bou sleep together; Margot is predictably upset, calling Dan ``a first-class shit,'' while acknowledging that Bou always wanted ``a guy on the side.'' Then Dan discovers that Beck, too, has been sleeping with Bou, and the four-way friendship collapses like a house of cards. A busy surface (Kafka sets his scenes meticulously) but a hollow center: this aseptic love story gives off no erotic heat at all. And the characters are fuzzy: Margot is conspicuously short- changed, almost disappearing, and it's not clear whether Bou is an ``innocent menace'' or simply a tramp.

Pub Date: May 5, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-60478-8

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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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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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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