For the omnivorous reader who, like Meg, can't get enough of the insights and passions and theories and inner lives of...

OUR TRAGIC UNIVERSE

Freewheeling intellectual journey with no destination.

A provocative book called The Science of Living Forever puts reviewer Meg in a reflective frame of mind. As she orders a batch of scientific/philosophical books to pore over, she finds herself questioning her assumptions about the universe and examining her relationship with prickly live-in Christopher. Meg's bread-and-butter gig is the Zeb Ross adventure series; she even holds retreats teaching other ghostwriters how to write for Zeb. But constantly in the back of her mind is the literary novel she spends a lot of energy avoiding and/or making notes for. On holiday in Scotland, woes over this unrealized opus lead to a lively discussion on the nature of the novel; must it have a story and a pattern, or can it depict what happened and offer "Zen" stories, designed to wean the reader from the restrictive expectation of cause and effect? Does it matter? Thomas toys with this idea. The narrative is built around small developments in Meg's life but studded with philosophical and literary discussions and riffs based on the ideas of writers/thinkers of the past (Nietzsche, Chekhov) and present (not household names, but she helpfully includes several titles in the acknowledgments). The more anxious Meg becomes over the novel, the more she becomes absorbed in her knitting and the lives of her friends. Libby has pushed her car into the water to cover up an affair and Meg's ex Drew is co-starring in a new Anna Karenina film. There's also the little matter of Meg kissing another man, the restless and much older Rowan. An unexpected TV deal brings a financial windfall that should change Meg's life significantly but doesn't—at least not right away. And when Christopher suffers an injury, he becomes impossible to live with. Meg leaves him, but not dramatically, simply sneaking away when he's not at home.

For the omnivorous reader who, like Meg, can't get enough of the insights and passions and theories and inner lives of others, Thomas's fifth novel (The End of Mr. Y, 2006, etc.) should be an addictive delight.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-15-101391-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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