A master class in how to tell a war story.

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THE DEVIL IS A BLACK DOG

STORIES FROM THE MIDDLE EAST AND BEYOND

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. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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NORMAL PEOPLE

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/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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