Gittins (Gimme Shelter, 2013) mines Thomas’ real-life last days for these obvious lessons with sensitivity and devotion. But...

READ REVIEW

THE POET AND THE PRIVATE EYE

Hired to dig dirt on Dylan Thomas during his last visit to New York, a private investigator instead finds the image of his own ruined life in the poet’s.

Stung by a 1953 profile in the coyly unnamed Time magazine, the distinguished but unruly Welsh poet has threatened a libel suit. The obvious defense, private eye Jimmy is assured by his frequent client, Time attorney Con, is to “prove everything in this profile is gospel.” That means tailing Thomas as he makes the rounds of the Big Apple’s fleshpots in order to substantiate a pattern of misbehavior. Following Thomas and watching for bad behavior is like shooting fish in a barrel, and in less than 12 hours, Jimmy has seen the poet meet Shelley Winters and Marilyn Monroe for cocktails, grope Marlene Dietrich, drink his weight in spirits and piss into a plant pot. These discoveries obviously doom the libel suit, but Con’s not satisfied. He’s convinced Jimmy is on to the story of the year and wants more, which is exactly what the poet provides. So does his wife, Caitlin, whose behavior on her home turf, the village of Laugharne, is even more flamboyantly transgressive than her husband’s. Returning home to his wife, Jimmy finds that Beth is unaccountably prickly and remote. Before he can figure out what’s bothering her, she takes off to stay with her older sister. A child could see where this story is headed, but Jimmy, who’s no child, must learn important life lessons from the dying poet in order to save himself.

Gittins (Gimme Shelter, 2013) mines Thomas’ real-life last days for these obvious lessons with sensitivity and devotion. But the whole cast, including Thomas, who barely gets a speaking role, is muffled by Jimmy’s sincere, obtuse reflections and digressions.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-84771-899-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Y Lolfa/Dufour

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

SUCH A FUN AGE

The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

WEATHER

An ever growing list of worries, from a brother with drug problems to a climate change apocalypse, dances through the lively mind of a university librarian.

In its clever and seductive replication of the inner monologue of a woman living in this particular moment in history, Offill’s (Dept. of Speculation, 2014, etc.) third novel might be thought of as a more laconic cousin of Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport. Here, the mind we’re embedded in is that of a librarian named Lizzie—an entertaining vantage point despite her concerns big and small. There’s the lady with the bullhorn who won’t let her walk her sensitive young son into his school building. Her brother, who has finally gotten off drugs and has a new girlfriend but still requires her constant, almost hourly, support. Her mentor, Sylvia, a national expert on climate change, who is fed up with her fans and wants Lizzie to take over answering her mail. (“These people long for immortality, but can’t wait ten minutes for a cup of coffee,” says Sylvia.) “Malodorous,” “Defacing,” “Combative,” “Humming,” “Lonely”: These are just a few of the categories in a pamphlet called Dealing With Problem Patrons that Lizzie's been given at work, Also, her knee hurts, and she’s spending a fortune on car service because she fears she's Mr. Jimmy’s only customer. Then there are the complex mixed messages of a cable show she can't stop watching: Extreme Shopper. Her husband, Ben, a video game designer and a very kind man, is getting a bit exasperated. As the new president is elected and the climate change questions pour in and the doomsday scenarios pile up, Lizzie tries to hold it together. The tension between mundane daily concerns and looming apocalypse, the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill's brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor.

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-35110-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more