A flawed tale, despite some cutting observations of the writerly demeanor.


An author bathing in the glory of publishing his debut novel heads to New York for his first book signing.

Simon Burchwood considers himself to be a writer at the pinnacle of his art. He believes that he has achieved recognition and fame, which, for him, are the most important accolades a man in his profession could think to achieve. Semegran’s (The Discarded Feast, 2017, etc.) novel opens with a boast: “I have become wildly more successful than I ever could have dreamed.” Simon is keen to share this assertion, and does so with everyone he meets. The truth is Simon appears to be a small-time author with a massively overinflated sense of self-importance who is on the cusp of publishing his first novel. The story charts his journey to New York, where he is to give a reading at a flagship bookstore, but first he will pay a visit to his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, in a bid to catch up with his childhood friend Jason. Seeing the streets where he grew up stirs up a cocktail of emotions, from mawkishness to disgust. Simon encounters his childhood sweetheart working in a strip joint, and realizes he still bears a resentment toward the kid who stole his prized Spider-Man comic. Yet he also knows that as a writer he is above small-town life, heading to New York with Jason, despite the fact he views him disparagingly as a “goddamn pig.” In Simon, the author has created a psychologically complex character that is difficult to like or tolerate. Written in the first person, Simon’s narrative is consistently abrasive and repetitive: “I gobbled up my second omelet as quickly as the first, and found myself licking my goddamn fingers and smacking my goddamn lips and scraping the edge of my goddamn plate with my fork like a goddamn heathen.” Semegran seems to channel Charles Bukowski’s muscular style but delivers a tired, ersatz version. Ironic or not, it becomes wearing after several pages. Nevertheless, the close-to-the-bone novel captures perfectly the intensely solipsistic nature of a certain type of author—one who arrogantly lauds the importance of his craft over others, yet ultimately favors public adoration over creative endeavor. But a clever and surprising twist fails to rescue what is often a tiresome read.

A flawed tale, despite some cutting observations of the writerly demeanor.  

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-615-75335-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Mutt Press

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?