Accompanying puffs from Amy Tan and Pat Conroy notwithstanding, this performance from actor/author Mantee (In Search of the Perfect Ravioli, 1991) comes across as stupefyingly shallow stuff. Bruno's best pages are the hero's mock dialogues with Burt Lancaster, much like Woody Allen's with Bogart in Play It Again, Sam. The rest, chockablock with brand names and banal movie and entertainment references, bears an almost Joycean opacity that renders up but faint plot and hangs its humors on almost no palpable spine or skeleton. A long flashback set in a bar, the story lazes upward like bubbles in a brandy and soda as Bruno Sangenito (stage name Johnny Bruno) sits beside a date, Margie Cosgrove, whom he last saw as a teenager back in 1953, and reveals to us his life story since then as a starstruck Hollywood wannabe. At one point he recalls his first date with Margie, as her mother, Beryl, flops onto the couch beside him while he waits for Margie: ``[Beryl] threw me helter-skelter into a deeper sea, as she lifted a Lucky—picture a stem on an olive in a silver tray—from the case on the coffee table between us, and bound me, gagged me, hung me by the neck with eyes that held secrets to secrets. She tamped her cigarette twice and dead center on a polished fingernail that had touched privacy. Put it to her mouth...crossed those long delicate legs one over the other, and shared with me for a split second her most personal freckles. Those that lie in wait inside darkness, where nylons fear to tread and garter belt dares to begin. Then languished her arm out and across a sculptured knee, Lucky perched a la mode.'' Judge for yourself.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-345-38379-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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