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THE DEVIL IS A BLACK DOG

STORIES FROM THE MIDDLE EAST AND BEYOND

A master class in how to tell a war story.

Nineteen interconnected short stories about the toll of war, written by someone who was there.

The old joke says that if fairy tales begin, “Once upon a time,” then war stories always start with, “You ain’t gonna believe this….” Translated from the Hungarian, journalist Jászberényi's stories about war correspondents, combatants and victims ring as true as any nonfiction. In the opener, “The Fever,” we meet the author’s main channel to readers, a jaded war reporter named Daniel Marosh, who's suffering from his illness in a Sudanese backwater on his way to yet another conflict zone. “I am smiling because I don’t regret anything, really,” he tells us. “I never wanted to live a sensible life. I never wanted to be a model citizen, have a family, or even a child. If something like that happened, it would end in total failure. I only have answers when the circumstances are clear, like life and death; that’s when I feel best, when the questions are easy, uncomplicated by the reflexes of a dying civilization.” This is heady, dizzying writing, rapt with cleareyed descriptions of armed children, brutal executions, sniper fire and sandstorms. Whether set in Sudan, Egypt or Gaza, each story reveals something about the nature of war and finds a kind of clinical sympathy not only for those caught up in it, but also for those who wage it. The best stories, like “Something About the Job,” delve into the psyche of the book’s determined journalist, explaining to us why he is the way he is and questioning whether the war made him or he sought out the scene. Despite the book’s very spare language, Jászberényi finds a kind of poetry in these wars, even as he declines to turn a blind eye to the suffering they bring. These stories sound more like Philip Caputo or Tim O’Brien than a postmodern accounting of current events.

A master class in how to tell a war story.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9900043-3-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: New Europe Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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OF MICE AND MEN

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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