A disjointed debut.

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TWENTY GRAND

AND OTHER TALES OF LOVE AND MONEY

Curtis explores subjects mundane and fantastical in her first book, a collection of stories.

The subtitle promises “tales of love and money,” and when she actually focuses on money and its absence, or on the forces that bring people together and push them apart, Curtis is outstanding. In “Hungry Self” and “Summer, with Twins,” she renders the fraught monotony and borderline poverty of waitressing in exquisite detail, and, in the former story, she captures the dumb grandiloquence and frequent hopelessness of adolescent longing in one magnificent line: “I was terribly in love with him, but we were separated by race and by the fact that he hated me.” “The Alpine Slide,” the story of a girl's first job at a doomed summer attraction, covers similar ground and is similarly excellent, and the title story is a bleak, tender, well-crafted look at a dissolute family losing its one chance at solvency and cohesion. These are the stories that first appeared in publications like the New Yorker and Harper’s, and it's easy to see why. Then, there are the other stories: the one about a family deciding which of their number will be taken by monsters, the one about outwitting werewolves, the halting portrait of a vaguely dystopian marriage. These stories fall into an unfortunate subgenre of current speculative fiction in which a wacky concept and ironic execution take the place of real storytelling. They fail to please not just because they do not fulfill the subtitle's promise of thematic unity, but also because they're just not very good. Curtis would have been wise to delay publication until she had a sufficient number of first-rate stories that reflect her considerable talent.

A disjointed debut.

Pub Date: July 3, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-117309-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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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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