Stream-of-consciousness fiction with a satisfying emotional weight: another intriguing experiment in narrative voice from...

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THE WAY OF THE DOG

An aging, embittered art collector looks back on a life defined by his brief friendship with a successful painter.

Sardonic humor leavens what would otherwise seem like a solipsistic reckoning of Harold Nivenson’s injuries, beginning with mean siblings and culminating with the death of his dog, Roy, some vague amount of time earlier. Harold lives in a decaying house in an urban area that has morphed from “a district of aging working-class white people drinking cheap beer on collapsing porches...[into] a neighborhood of middle-class breeders.” He thinks of himself as alone and friendless, though a woman named Moll (whose relationship to him is initially unclear) has moved in to care for him, and the son he calls Alfie (not his real name) pays frequent visits. Harold is unwilling to acknowledge any attachment save Roy’s; the routines of owning a dog gave his shattered life meaning, and he imagines Roy sharing the canine wisdom that “[e]very day is all there is.” By contrast, Harold believes Alfie has come only to get his art collection appraised, and his bitter memories of Peter Meininger—creator of the sole valuable painting, according to the appraiser—characterize the artist as a user who took refuge in Harold’s house, worked there and slept with Harold’s wife, then decamped, leaving Nude in Deck Chair as an insulting reminder of the wife’s infidelity. Harold is at first an alienating narrator, as he snipes at everyone from his neighbors to his relatives, but we gradually see that he has never been as detached from the world as he pretends and that he is in fact hungry for human contact. Though he decries even the stark basic scenario of “man is born, suffers, and dies” as “too much of a story,” Harold comes to accept love—maybe even to think about giving it in return.

Stream-of-consciousness fiction with a satisfying emotional weight: another intriguing experiment in narrative voice from Savage (Glass, 2011, etc.).

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56689-312-1

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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