WATTEAU IN VENICE

Crammed with literary and philosophical allusions, this postmodern novel by the author of Women (1990) is as tedious and self-important as a loquacious tippler's 3 a.m. monologue. Pierre Froissart, a French writer who has turned his hand to smuggling stolen art (in this case, a Watteau), is passing languid days in a Venetian villa with a beauteous physics student, Luz, while he awaits orders for the completion of the deal. His meandering reveries form the bulk of this plotless novel. Pierre mostly indulges in self-justifying musings on the philistinism of a society that values art only as a commodity. He also meditates on the youthful freshness of Luz and the brittle sophistication of Geena, who introduced him to the haute world of stolen art. He ranges nonstop over a dizzying variety of people and ideas: Spinoza, France, Hitler, colonial laws in Martinique, Hemingway, Warhol, and time travel all figure in the text. It's not at all clear whether this crowd of references is intended to inform, dazzle, obscure, or stupefy. Along the way, Pierre makes some memorable observations, such as this one on the charm of Watteau's paintings: ``The figure in the carpet, the purloined letter, the grey-plated and pale pink web draped in silver, the mercury whose secret has apparently been lost, the key to the departure hidden in folds and more folds, the finger on the lips.'' In criticizing contemporary vacuity, he offers this possibly self-reflective advice: ``You want to write your memoirs? Easy: recall the dullest memories possible which anyone might have had, employing the maximum of clichÇs... Success!'' The novel's essence may be distilled into another quote: ``Question: What should intellectuals do? Answer: Defend complexity. Objection: But if you repeat a sentence over and over, even that one, doesn't it become a clichÇ? Answer: So what?'' Question: If reading this novel is an exercise in masochism, was writing it a sadistic act? Answer: Really, who cares?

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-684-19451-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?

more