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THE SHORT FOREVER

Woods notes in closing that his editor requested no changes in his manuscript, since nothing needed fixing. Readers may well...

Hours after his latest lover dumps him, that paragon of lawyer/adventurers Stone Barrington (Cold Paradise, 2001, etc.) is en route to London for a round of intrigue that does indeed seem to go on forever.

Stone’s charge is simple: to rescue John Bartholomew’s niece, Erica Burroughs, from the clutches of drug mule Lance Cabot and get Cabot arrested for something or other before Stone returns to the US with Erica. But the job is complicated by the fact that John Bartholomew doesn’t exist and Erica Burroughs (who’s soon fixed Stone up with her eligible sister Monica) doesn’t have an uncle. Even murkier waters open when the sisters take Stone to a house party at the home of painter Sarah Buckminster, another of his inexhaustible supply of ex-lovers, and he’s on hand to see Sarah’s fiancé, wine trader James Cutler, fall to his death from her yacht. Or did Sarah, overenthusiastic at Stone’s return, really arrange his demise? Just when you think the story’s settled into a mystery mold, Woods changes course again, like a kindergartner with a short attention span, and drops Stone into the middle of the mutual recriminations of Bartholomew and Cabot, each of whom insists the other is a ruthless criminal spy (and there’s evidence they both may be right). To the smorgasbord of plotlines already on display—Bring Home the Lady, Did She or Didn’t She, and Who Do You Trust—Woods eventually adds a fourth when Cabot inveigles Stone into a fast-money scheme to smuggle an unnamed McGuffin out of its closely guarded industrial home and into the hands of international provocateurs. Seasoned fans will know better than to take the spy stuff any more seriously than the rest of this potluck supper.

Woods notes in closing that his editor requested no changes in his manuscript, since nothing needed fixing. Readers may well come up with other explanations.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14868-X

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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HOUSE OF LEAVES

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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