An actor adept at entertaining and holding an audience shows himself a novelist gifted with the same skills. The book is not...

ART IN AMERICA

The actor-playwright turned novelist offers a hefty slice of Americana-inflected entertainment in his latest novel (Traveler, 2007, etc.).

After offering a laboriously comic itinerary of its NYC author-protagonist Steven Kearney’s numerous unpublishable novels and plays, McLarty settles into a rich characterization of a hopeful loser bereft of both literary success and his angry girlfriend. Steven is thrown a lifeline when the town of Creedemore, Colo., offers him a lucrative residency in return for writing a historical play about the area’s storied origins. So it’s off to Creedemore, where Steven is greeted by an officious spinster and introduced to Creedemore’s eccentric populace. Brisk short chapters move things along smartly, and action abounds, as a range war of sorts erupts between near-centenarian feed-store mogul and landowner Ticky Lettgo (we’re not making this up) and “Mountain Man” Red Fields, an environmentalist Age-of-Aquarian planning to offer adventurous river rafting trips through waters Ticky claims are also his exclusive property. Add in juxtaposed peeks back east, where Steven’s buddies Roarke (a lesbian actress-director) and Tubby (a Falstaffian construction worker) keep tabs on his western adventures, and you have a cheerfully overstuffed tale whose ungainly bulk is redeemed by energetic prose and busy comic detail. There are also loud protests, some politically inspired, others motivated by sheer cussedness; lively courtroom battles; a bomb threat or two; and an overload of macho posturing (some of it performed by female characters). Vivid characters pop up frequently, including a transplanted Eastern sheriff (a man of reason serving where unreason rules), a foulmouthed reverend and a man known as “Cowboy Poet,” a tireless fount of hilarious doggerel. And there’s a corker of a climax, during which we’re treated to the memorable opening scenes of Steven’s commissioned sagebrush masterpiece.

An actor adept at entertaining and holding an audience shows himself a novelist gifted with the same skills. The book is not a masterpiece, but it’s an immensely engaging and winning performance.

Pub Date: July 7, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-01895-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

more