Postmodern gothic made tedious.

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RIDDANCE

Ambitious new work from the author of Half Life (2006) and Patchwork Girl (1995).

This novel begins with an “Editor’s Introduction,” a fact which is sure to excite fans of postmodern gothic, but even before that, we see what looks like a photocopy of a brittle newspaper clipping describing a murder at a “school for stammerers.” The fictional editor goes on to describe an uncanny series of coincidences that fuels her interest in the “Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-mouth Children.” The text that follows is presented as a scholarly anthology, a mix of first-person narratives, letters, and excerpts from a variety of secondary sources. There is an audience of readers who will appreciate this book simply for existing. There is an audience of readers who will enjoy the experience of reading this book. There is also an audience of readers who will be thrilled by the idea of this novel and dreadfully disappointed by its execution. There’s not much to say about the first category, and the second category will recognize itself. The suggestion that there is a third category requires explication. So…the first disappointment is that, although this novel is supposed to be composed of disparate parts, there is almost no differentiation in voice. The “Editor” sounds a lot like Sybil Joines, who sounds a lot like her stenographer, Jane Grandison. There is a formal argument to be made on behalf of this technical choice—the dead speak through the living in this book, and identities are porous—but the monotony undercuts the gothic conceit Jackson alludes to at the beginning. It’s also worth noting that all these nearly indistinguishable voices are equally verbose. No detail is insignificant enough to evade careful notice. “In each perforation of my too-large oxfords, a crescent shadow waxed and waned as its angle to the light changed, or disappeared in my own larger shadow, and inside my loose black stockings, on which tiny fuzz balls clung, my ankles individually flexed and strained.” This novel is more than 500 pages, and it proceeds at this pace.

Postmodern gothic made tedious.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-936787-99-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Black Balloon Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some white people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only white avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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