It's a curious fact that Russell Hoban and Norman Mailer are very nearly the same age (born 1925 and 1923 respectively)—because, like Mailer's Ancient Evenings (p. 203), Hoban's new novel is a quasi-mystical blend of theology, ghosts, magic, death-songs, and dark sexual visions. But, while Mailer's book surrounds those preoccupations with a longwinded, episodic narrative, Hoban presents them in a dreamlike meditation-cumpilgrimage—dense, poetic, difficult. The pilgrim/narrator is Pilgermann, a Jew in 1096 Europe, who indulges his lust for the local tax-collector's wife Sophia. . . and, after leaving her, is promptly castrated by the townsfolk, but not killed—thanks to, of all people, the tax-collector. And then Pilgermann has a vision of Christ, followed by a voice telling him—"Thou pilgrim Jew!"—to go to Jerusalem. Why? "To keep Jesus from going away," as God has gone away. So Pilgermann sets off for the Holy Land on foot. His acquaintances along the way include: a dying, John Irvingesque bear, symbolizing Christ ("What a wonderful bear that was! How I wished that I could have him for a friend"); a company of children raped by skeleton-creatures symbolizing Lust; a lascivious talking (and constantly fornicating) pig; assorted ghosts; and Pilgermann's own death, a visible entity but "not yet ripened to term." As he travels pilgermann ponders war, Hieronymus Bosch (the narrator is actually Pilgermann's eternal, clairvoyant soul), epiphany ("the strange brilliance of total Now"), and the Naumburg stone story: "The Jesusness of Jesus cannot live without the Judasness of Judas, the Caiaphasness of Caiphas, the Pilateness of Pilate. Ponderous wheel!" Then, in the novel's second half, Pilgermann becomes a slave to a simpatico Turk in Antioch—where he and his master consider "potentiality and actuality," the "motion of the Unseen": Pilgermann creates a mystical geometrical design for a tiled marketplace—a pattern symbolizing both the pro and con of religion. And when the crusading Franks arrive to massacre, Pilgermann curses God, achieves a purple-blue state of "indescribable luminosity". . . and faces his own extinction. At its best: a harrowing yet elegant blend of shapely parable and anguished imagery. At its worst: a cross between a comparative theology lecture and Castaneda-style blather. Of limited appeal, then, without the epic allure of Riddley Walker—but often a rich, bizarre challenge for the theologically-minded.

Pub Date: April 30, 1983

ISBN: 0747556407

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.


Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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