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A solid short story in a beautiful, thin volume from an author we wish we heard more from.

A short story about love, animals, art, and Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Cisneros’ (A House of My Own: Stories from My Life, 2015, etc.) first published fiction for adults since the novel Caramelo in 2002 tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. de Rivera and their house full of love, animals, and art. Published as Volume 15 of Sarabande Books’ Quarternote chapbook series and featuring simple but evocative line drawings by the author, the story is presented in the original English and a facing Spanish translation by Valenzuela. Even though they’re never named, the main characters are clearly Kahlo and Rivera. “Mister” is a famous artist known for his drinking, womanizing, and his “frescoes taller than their blue house.” “Missus” paints at times but is mostly concerned with taking care of her husband and managing the menagerie of dogs, monkeys, cats, birds, lizards, a single fawn, and all manner of other creatures. The animals come to represent all the love and emotion present in Mr. and Mrs. de Rivera’s life and their refusal to conform to societal expectations. Why do they adopt every stray animal they can? Why do they invite famous people and Communists to parties that last all night? Because they want to. The writing is sharp and vivid, and the animals can be felt on the page. “The animals consumed more than food. They devoured Mrs. de Rivera’s attention from the moment she opened her eyes. Even before she opened her eyes. The dogs pawed and rubbed themselves on her belly and spine. They slept on her starched pillow embroidered in silk thread—‘Amor Eterno.’ They brought dirt into her bed, nosed their way under the blankets, curled themselves in the nook behind the knees, the swell of her stomach, the soles of her feet.” This story first appeared in the 2015 Washington Post Fiction Issue and has been a staple of Cisneros’ live readings for years. Cisneros manages to be one of America’s most respected authors despite her relative paucity of new work in the past 16 years. This is a good, touching story about the power of bonds and unreasonable love, but to a certain extent it leaves the reader wishing for more.

A solid short story in a beautiful, thin volume from an author we wish we heard more from.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-94644821-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sarabande

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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