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A debut novel by critic and showbiz historian Kashner (Hollywood Kryptonite, 1996) that portrays the inner life of a demented Frank Sinatra fan. Everyone knows that the really big stars never read their own fan mail, but that hasn—t stopped a soul from writing. Certainly it hasn—t stopped “Finkie” Finklestein, a New Jersey sales rep for Weiss & Rifkind window shades, from keeping up a regular—if entirely one-sided—correspondence with Sinatra for more than 20 years. Not content simply to flatter his idol (—Believe you me, Frank, Marriage on the Rocks has a lot going for it—), Finkie keeps him posted on how business is these days (—Levelor Blinds . . . is a tide that rises all Finklestein boats—), and what’s up on the home front in Fort Lee. A husband and father—who names his daughter Nancy Ava—Finkie’s not quite a skirt-chaser on the level with Old Blue Eyes himself, but he’s had his share of trouble, including a nasty divorce and a second marriage that ends in utter disaster. Frank is the still point of his turning world. So, naturally, when Finkie hears that Sinatra is going to retire, he makes it down to the Music Center for the farewell concert and tries to pay his respects in person by making a trip backstage after the performance. That’s when the miracle strikes: Sinatra’s bodyguards catch Finkie in the wings and beat him to a bloody pulp: “Before the night of June 14, 1971, I had spent over twenty years trying to come up with ways to meet you by accident,” he says. Sinatra, shaken by the potential bad publicity, pursues Finkie—and offers him a job on his entourage to keep him from pressing charges. Will Finkie ever wise up? O ye of little faith! He couldn—t have written a happier ending himself. A weirdly affecting portrait of innocence verging on monomania.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-87951-917-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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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

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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