THE MAGIC TOUCH

A sprawling, freewheeling tale of a young woman's uncanny sexual powers, the virtues of altruism, the Devil, Dan Quayle (herein known as Jefferson Stinkweed), and the bad stuff that happens if you watch TV, among other things. The young woman is Celeste Kipplebaum Runetoon Kelly, born to a mother two days dead, which gives you a good idea of what you're in for—a whimsical but freighted journey down roads already well traveled by Tom Robbins's sexually free, gloriously misfit hitchhiker Sissy Hankshaw in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1976). Celeste's bliss, however, comes not from the pursuit of pure freedom but from the orgasmic thrill of healing others though sexual connection. Not content with mere physical healing, mind you (though she can cure AIDS, no problem), she gets deep into the very soul of each sufferer she fondles, from a browbeaten and balding neighbor to a tap-dancing serial killer, and melts away the hurt, restoring each to his (or her) youthful, unsaddened, unsullied self. Despite the perks that come with her work, Celeste (aka ``Queen of the Unseen, the Princess of Caress, the Dame of the Lame, the Countess of Regress, Her Majesty of Nudity,'' as the little voices between her legs chant) sometimes tires of her relentless sexual battle against the forces of evil, longing to be ordinary. ``Did King Arthur wish he were normal? Don Quixote?'' sputters her grandmother with righteous indignation. ``Whoever said being a knight would be easy? You can perform unprecedented miracles! Consider yourself lucky.'' So Celeste presses on, and on, to a climactic meeting with the Prince of Darkness himself. Perhaps no one can surpass Robbins's sublime stew of nonsense and wisdom, though this, Simon's first novel (her short-story collection, Little Nightmares, Little Dreams, 1990, mined much of the same territory), has plenty of the former and is abubble with wildly imaginative, sometimes gratingly cute language: ``She shoved the window open. The lake sibilated, geese ronked, leaves oodly-oodly-ooed.'' But despite its heavy themes—the spiritual sickness rampant in modern society, the redemptive powers of love- -and core of seriousness, the novel never gets any more than ankle-deep; and Celeste's powers, so seductive to others, never convince or move us. Simon's story is fun to spend the night with, but there's no afterglow.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-670-85262-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

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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