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THE FORCE OF THE PAST

Gianni is a splendid talker in this sophisticated tale of his own privacies: it’s like passing a splendid few hours in a...

Veronesi’s seventh but first to appear in the US is a true pleasure as a man’s life seems to be falling apart—but then doesn’t.

Gianni Orzan is a prize-winning children’s author who lives in Rome (in an apartment with a great view), has a beloved son of eight, and is happily married. On the downside? Well, for one thing, he’s blocked on his next book (he writes about a little kid, Pizzano Pizza), and, for another, his father has very recently died. A difficult time, in other words, but not disastrous. But then a cab driver taking Gianni home one night—with a gun showing under his belt—makes a casual but intimately true remark about the beloved son, and Gianni takes it as a veiled threat: he jumps from the cab, tells the cops, and moves wife and son—for safe keeping—out of the city. When the cabby appears at Gianni’s door—with gun, but also with the computer and valise that Gianni left in the cab—it starts to seem that things aren’t as they appeared. Over many never-sensational but ever-interesting pages, the cabby works Gianni over—with no blows but words only, trying to make him accept the truth he bears: that Gianni’s father was Russian, not Italian, that after WWII he took the identity of a doomed man named Orzan and spent the rest of his days as a deep-cover agent for the Russians. Does the bottom fall out of Gianni’s life? No, but almost. It will take a beautiful woman, a Vespa accident, and revelation of an infidelity before the sinister cabby—actually a great guy, Gianni’s second father, more like—can make all things happy and safe once again.

Gianni is a splendid talker in this sophisticated tale of his own privacies: it’s like passing a splendid few hours in a comfortable bar with a long-missed best friend.

Pub Date: April 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-621245-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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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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