THE MOOR'S LAST SIGH

This amazingly inventive fiction is—as all the world knows—its Indian-born author's first adult novel since Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini put a price on Rushdie's head in 1990 for the "offense" against Islam perceived in The Satanic Verses (1989). And, by the time you read this, it will almost certainly have won Britain's 1995 Booker Prize. It's the story of a deliriously mixed and conflicted, helplessly self-destructive family, the da Gama-Zogoiby clan of Cochin in South India, and later Bombay, whose herculean appetites and Machiavellian dealings mockingly embody the history of 20th-century India. That story is told by Moraes (a.k.a. "the Moor"), fourth child and only son of wealthy businessman and reputed crime boss Abraham Zogoiby (a Cochin Jew) and celebrated painter Aurora da Gama (a Portuguese Catholic), heiress to her family's spice fortune and a prominent figure in the Indian independence movement. "Moor," a veritable Scheherazade, records the tangled history of his multiform family—including, among other bizarre persons and events, his great-grandfather's philosophical mysticism, his maternal grandfather's "comic-opera efforts at importing the Soviet Revolution" to Cochin, and his homosexual great-uncle's misadventures as a transvestite—during what seem his last days: for Moor was born afflicted, not just with a deformed right hand, but also with a unique condition causing him to age at twice the normal rate (i.e., at 36, he's physically a 72-year-old); furthermore, he's being held hostage by his mother's rejected lover, an inferior artist who means to obliterate the aesthetic gap between them. That's the real point of this Rabelaisian extravaganza: That distinctions—between Catholic and Jew, Muslim and Hindu, even human and animal—are what set us at one another's throats and threaten to undo us. For sheer headlong inexhaustible inventive force and fury, there's been nothing like this in English since Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow in 1973. It's Nobel Prize time.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42049-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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