To quote the Professor: “Time is a clutter . . . and it needs to be sorted out.” So is, so does Gazelle.

GAZELLE

Muted characterization and action and a voluptuous superabundance of arcane hocus-pocus: such are the keynotes of this febrile eighth novel from the writer-painter whose earlier, much similar fiction includes The Complete Butcher’s Tales (1994) and Phosphor in Dreamland (1995).

The story’s narrated in retrospect by Elizabeth, a trained anatomist who specializes in examining mummified bodies, 20 years after she had lived in Cairo with her “Professor” father (bankrolled by a Fulbright grant) and epically promiscuous Icelandic mother. “Mother,” a sexual force of nature devoid of moral scruples, ran through multiple lovers, seeking her ideal Egyptian man: “the gazelle type.” The Professor, an expert in the mechanics of poisoning (whose book The Ethics of War had attracted CIA interest), and a hitherto strictly “rational” man, drowned his grief in chess games reimagined as historic battles with master parfumier Ramses Ragab. As always, Ducornet conjures up fragrant excerpts from texts both real (The Arabian Nights) and imaginary (the “licentious” Garden of Semblance and Lies, the writings of alchemist Athanasius Kirchner, who studied Egyptian hieroglyphics in hopes of creating an encyclopedic summa of human experience). Rather late in the game, things do begin to happen, as the Professor summons a magician to bring back his vagrant wife (she does return, after mumbling incantations replete with dark cosmic clichés—but she stays only for breakfast). Meanwhile, Elizabeth's awakened sexuality leads her to intimacy with secrets possessed and conjured by Ramses Ragab, independence from both her mother's destructive sexuality and her father's abdication from reality, and—on shipboard, as she and the Professor, having abandoned all hope, return to America—the “gazelle man” who makes her a woman (“my heart thrashed like an eel under the net of his eyes”). Ducornet's aphoristic élan makes all this nonsense agreeably smooth, if insubstantial and arbitrary.

To quote the Professor: “Time is a clutter . . . and it needs to be sorted out.” So is, so does Gazelle.

Pub Date: July 29, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-41124-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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