Witty, intelligent, engrossing: Cameron (Andorra, 1997, etc.) offers a leisurely and old-fashioned narrative that...

CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION

An exceptionally moving and self-assured account of the odyssey of a young academic who sets off for South America to research the biography of an Uruguayan writer—and falls into a viper’s nest of deception and intrigue.

Graduate students (in the humanities, at least) aren’t usually noted for machinelike efficiency, but Omar Razaghi is ineffectual even by the low standards of academe. A doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas, Omar is the sort who can set an apartment aflame and fall into quicksand with equal ease—but he is a fair scholar who knows how to write. His dissertation on the South American novelist Jules Gund has won him a fellowship with a generous stipend and guarantee of publication—if he can secure authorization for the biography he plans to write. Unfortunately, Gund’s literary estate is controlled by his three heirs (a wife, a mistress, and a brother), who turned down Omar’s polite letter requesting authorization. The matter probably would have ended there were it not for Omar’s more forceful girlfriend Deirdre, who convinces him to get on a plane and confront the family directly. In Uruguay, he quickly discovers that the opposition is not unanimous: Gund’s brother Adam is quite happy to agree to the biography—provided that Omar smuggle a few jewels back to America for him. Gund’s mistress Arden also seems open to argument—maybe because she finds that she more and more enjoys having Omar around to argue with. Only Gund’s widow Caroline is adamantly opposed. Could her resistance have something to do with the circumstances of Gund’s suicide? Or the unpublished manuscript of Gund’s last novel that she may or may not have destroyed? Is there some other, more hidden reason? It seems like an awful lot of work just to get a stipend.

Witty, intelligent, engrossing: Cameron (Andorra, 1997, etc.) offers a leisurely and old-fashioned narrative that nonetheless moves directly to a surprising but credible end.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-28197-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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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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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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