Bizarre yet grounded, this book about a male stripper makes for a playful look at the human experience.

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Pozzo

A debut novel explores a stranger’s adventures in a surreal land.

The tale of Pozzo begins in a garage situated near an unpaved alley. It is there that two boys dressed as angels and an “impressively large, but not fat, drag queen version of Mae West” wind up conjuring a wondrous creature. After the boys pray and Mae, as she is known, sings a rendition of the Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman” (accompanied by her drag queen backup singers), a man emerges from a cardboard box. He will become known as Pozzo. Strong, protected by an invisible guardian rabbit, and given to a clunky, anachronistic mode of speaking (as when he explains his dismay at having a guardian rabbit: “I have no understanding that allows for an incorporation of such a guardian”), he is adrift, but not helpless. Taken home by Mae, he forms a close bond with her, though friction develops. While Mae makes her living as a drag artist, Pozzo begins to fear he is dead weight in the relationship (“He had even overheard himself referred to as Mae’s toy boy”). As the decision is made that Pozzo too will perform for money, he winds up blossoming into an incredibly successful male stripper. When he eventually leaves Mae for the potential of even brighter pastures, the only question is just where he might wind up. Peppered with philosophical considerations (a paragraph on Kant includes his concept of “noumena”), offbeat scenes (a conversation between a private investigator and his billy goat assistant results in many “Baa, baa” responses), and a plethora of singing (song lyrics included), the story is decidedly whimsical and dreamlike. Part Rocky Horror Picture Show-style camp, part earnest exploration of what it means to exist, Johnson’s tale takes the reader on a weird though not impossible journey. Broken up into three digestible parts and coming in at under 300 pages, the entire adventure moves just as quickly and confoundedly as a lively floor show. Whether or not readers will take to the mixture of the goofy and the ruminative depends on their tolerance for creatures of many stripes and lots and lots of singing.  

Bizarre yet grounded, this book about a male stripper makes for a playful look at the human experience.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5347-0435-0

Page Count: 248

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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