Inventive, funny, grotesque, and ribald—a book with something for everyone as long as no one demands that it makes sense.

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TACKY GOBLIN

A collection of dated diary-style entries that come together to form nothing quite as conclusive as a novel, Steele’s debut chronicles a coming-of-age story for the surrealist in us all.

A young man from the La Grange suburbs of Chicago is embarking on a trip to LA, where he will live with his sister, Kim. Only his legs have stopped working in psychosomatic protest. Only there is a talking mold-mouth in the corner of his bedroom ceiling that has colonized his brain and established a “private line to [his] unconscious” via spores. Only the season inside the house no longer matches the season outside the house, and his father may not be real. Things don’t get any easier out west. Kim comes home with a pet which appears to be a “genetic hybrid dream portal canine-baby escapee” and clogs the kitchen drain with its teeth. The little black pills that make your “brain feel carbonated” also call into existence a norm-core hallucination named Larry who lurks about tepidly. Laurie, the narrator’s girlfriend, dumps him by moving to their landlord’s building in France, one of the many buildings he maintains around the world by “hand-pick[ing his] tenants to create perfect counterparts of the same building in each country.” Also, there is a decorative skull paperweight that has eaten the narrator’s soul. Also, his legs—replacement parts bestowed upon him by the mold-mouth back in La Grange—have started to visibly rot. Each segment of this bizarro novel is crafted as a speed-of-light vignette—a brief pulse that illuminates the sordid, the unsavory, the cruel, and the hilarious burden of the everyday. This project was originally conceived of as a blog, launched in 2013, and the results here still read like compiled entries in a medium that requires neither context nor the development of character, theme, motif, or any of the other typical hallmarks of a novel. The result is a sublimely contemporary study of a universal truth: Growing up is weird to do.

Inventive, funny, grotesque, and ribald—a book with something for everyone as long as no one demands that it makes sense.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944700-60-7

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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