A bit rough but generally entertaining. At 105 pages, it’s worth a quick read.

THE SPIDER

Cole’s darkly humorous novella follows burned-out rock ’n’ roller Clifford as he cares for his abusive, mentally ill wife, Suzie, over the course of a day, years after his big shot at fame has passed.

Clifford loves his wife. It’s the only explanation for his staying with her in their dreary English home, trying to make sure she gets her meds and attempting to coax her former radiant self back into the open while she screams at him and tries to kill the neighbor’s dog with a brick. They met when she followed his band from gig to gig—a band she convinced him to leave when the record contract came and undersold his role in the songwriting. She’s obsessed with deceased Queen singer Freddie Mercury; she and Cliff had been regulars at a Queen tribute festival until a year before the action of the novella takes place. Her behavior at last year’s festival might bar them from attending again, though. When Bev, a new festival organizer, shows up at their door to talk to them about going, past behavior and a jealous streak intersect to create an awkward situation. Cole takes advantage of Clifford’s comic possibilities in this literary fiction with a surprising twist at the end. Clifford may be depressed and crusty, but he’s also a loving, doting husband coping with his own needs in a relationship that could charitably be described as distant. (One scene in particular stands out: Clifford at a news agent, attempting to obtain some questionable reading material in the presence of a candy-obsessed priest.) But Clifford is also the only character in the story with any real depth, though this quick read is so short and linear that it’s not much of a problem. The young Suzie makes an appearance as Clifford daydreams of a happier past, but in the present, she’s one-note as she yells at Clifford and eventually Bev. She comes across as dangerous and paranoid, but there’s little underpinning her rancor. In some cases, Cole goes for style over clarity, as in the critical opening scene, for example, in which Clifford prepares Suzie’s pills—although the coy narration won’t admit as much.

A bit rough but generally entertaining. At 105 pages, it’s worth a quick read.

Pub Date: March 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1480021570

Page Count: 112

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2013

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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