Ostensibly a novel about the legendary Moroccan tribe of musicians, this awkward narrative by the rock critic Davis (Hammer of the Gods, 1985) reads more like a work of pop ethnomusicology. One suspects that lawyers had more to do with its classification than any generic considerations by the author. In any case, Davis's tale of ``Roman gods and Muslim saints, Rolling Stones and Moroccan tribes'' is a fine travelogue of modern Africa, with walk-on speaking roles by such real-life figures as William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Paul Bowles, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Bernardo Bertolucci. What they all share is a fascination with the Master Musicians of Jajouka, a tribal group from a remote Moroccan hill town who preserve an Islamic type of music brought from medieval Spain when the Moors were expelled in the 15th century. Central to their musical celebrations is a Greco- Roman Arcadian ritual in which a local young man plays the role of Bou Jeloud, a half-man, half-goat flutist with mystical powers of fertility. Davis' narrative takes its shape from the narrator's journalistic efforts to make the musicians' way of life known throughout the world, inspired by the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones, who first recorded their sound in the late 60's. Throughout the 70's, the unnamed narrator tries to sell various editors on the story of this magical group, but their commercial appeal remains limited, their legend obscure. Finally, in the 80's, an ambitious entrepreneur brings Jajouka to Europe, and this tour is the beginning of the end. No longer a premodern band of folk musicians, the group is split by bickering over money and leadership. Amazingly, though, the narrator never once considers what is a basic notion among contemporary anthropologists: his own role as participant-observer and how it inevitably alters the history of this once-unsullied music. The trite observations about cultures clashing and the wide- eyed acceptance of Jajouka's mystical power make this weak social science. And Davis's lumpy narration, with its perfunctory dialogue, hardly redeems itself as fiction.

Pub Date: July 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-42119-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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