THE ICE CREAM MAN & OTHER STORIES

A voice like none other writing today—Pink is riveting.

Pink’s (The Garbage Times/White Ibis: Two Novellas, 2018, etc.) latest book continues his eyes-wide-open exploration of the many underbellies of modern life.

It's almost impossible to describe one of Pink’s books without relying on adjectives chronically overused to evoke a certain type of 21st-century voice-driven urban realism. His books are gritty, it’s true; also cynical, often vicious, funny in a wry, despairing sort of way. The characters that populate Pink’s world are junkies and drunks, homeless veterans and runaways, people laboring at brutally absurd jobs, people lost in the overwhelming trash of their lives. Yet the feeling one leaves a Pink novel with is less world-weariness or disgust than the recognition of a tremulous, wavering kind of belief in tenderness, beauty, and hope. Expressing itself in Pink’s signature single-sentence paragraphs, and replete with onomatopoetic belches, squelches, slurps, and titters, the voice that narrates this book is no exception to this rule. Pink splits the stories into three geographically defined sections and proceeds to follow his frequently unnamed narrators through the frozen alleys of Chicago to the blazing cul-de-sacs of Florida and back up north to the stark fields of Michigan. Along the way readers look through the eyes of a murderous dishwasher who hates you (every you) more even than the ramekins he washes; a novice ice cream man finding a species of the sublime in doing “maybe the first job [he] ever had where people were happy to see [him]”; a wedding caterer, awash in the beauty of the banal, who comes to an unlikely tête-à-tête with a magnificent, and dangerous, stag. There are young women who have stomped the guts out of rats, friendly meth addicts willing to guide the narrator to the best local tattoo shop, many beloved animal companions, and many beloved, if often unsalvageable, human friends. Pink, who is also a visual artist and a musician, continues exploring a world of the relentlessly profane with the kind of tender humanity usually reserved for stories more interested in the redemption of their characters. Pink is far too honest to fall into this trap. His characters don’t need redemption so much as they need a sandwich, or a blanket, or someone to talk with in order to pass the time, and herein lies the collection’s greatest, and most surprising, strength.

A voice like none other writing today—Pink is riveting.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59376-593-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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NORMAL PEOPLE

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Awards & Accolades

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    Best Books Of 2019


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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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

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