Next book

ANOTHER SIDE OF PARADISE

A stylish reiteration of a sad, oft-told tale.

Gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s side of her less-than-paradisiacal love affair with F. Scott Fitzgerald during the last three years of his life.

Koslow’s portrayal begins with Sheilah’s refusing to accept the fact that Scott has just died. Flashbacks form the rest of the novel, narrated by Sheilah. Born to a poor Jewish family in London, Sheilah (nee Lily Shiel) is consigned to an orphanage by a mother unable to care for her, but she eventually attains enough respectability to attract upper-class suitors. She marries the much older John Graham Gillam, who is more mentor than husband—they will divorce amicably—and with his blessing achieves a measure of acclaim on the London stage before journeying to America to pursue a career in journalism. Her penchant for fluff pieces lends itself perfectly to gossip, and soon Sheilah’s in Hollywood, challenging Louella Parsons and Hedda Hoper. The story of Sheilah and Scott’s instant chemistry and their on-again, off-again, but always intense liaison is told with taste and sympathy for these deeply flawed characters: Scott, whose best intentions are always derailed by his frequent tumbles off the wagon, and Sheilah, who grows increasingly weary of concealing her déclassé origins, real name, and Jewishness. She’s not entirely reassured when Scott points out that most of Hollywood’s movie moguls are Jewish and that the majority of movie stars have what he refers to as a “nom de guerre.” As Scott tries to improve on Sheilah’s education with a Western canon reading list, she acts as his personal manager, remediating the chaotic aftermath of his drinking bouts. Scott's bad luck as a screenwriter is entertainingly depicted as he's fired from such iconic films as Gone with the Wind (despite Sheilah’s help with visualizing the character of Scarlett) and The Women. Koslow’s writing is vibrant and colorful, and the denizens of Scott’s world are ably summed up in a few pithy swipes: “In 1935, Dorothy [Parker] was a wicked, eyelash-batting pixie willing to catapult into any conversation.”

A stylish reiteration of a sad, oft-told tale.

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-269676-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

Next book

HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

Categories:
Next book

THE SECRET HISTORY

The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

Categories:
Close Quickview