OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Keeping his own stylistic flamboyance in check, Boyle evokes a cultural flashpoint with implications that transcend acid...

Once Timothy Leary opened the Pandora’s box of LSD, everything changed.

Few novelists have benefited more from the freedom unleashed by the psychedelic revolution than the prolific Boyle (The Relive Box, 2017, etc.), but here he shows a buttoned-down control over his material, a deadpan innocence in the face of seismic changes to come. It’s an East Coast novel of academia by the West Coast novelist, and it’s a little like reading Richard Yates on the tripping experience. The novel’s catalyst is Dr. Timothy Leary (“Tim” throughout), though Boyle has wisely opted not to make him the protagonist but instead a figure seen and idealized through the eyes of others. At the novel’s center is the nuclear family of Fitzhugh and Joanie Loney and their teenage son, Corey. Fitz has been struggling to support himself as a Harvard graduate student in psychology, one of Leary's advisees, though one who is, as the title says, on the “outside looking in” as the psychedelic hijinks commence. It isn’t long before Leary seduces his student into the inner circle, where Joanie joins them and the nucleus of this family starts to destabilize as they make themselves part of a larger communal tribe. All in the name of science, as Fitz continues to believe, though Leary soon finds himself ousted from Harvard, his work discredited, his students in limbo. Is he a radical, reckless visionary or a self-promoting huckster? Perhaps a little of both. Without advocating or sermonizing, and without indulging too much in the descriptions of sexual comingling and the obligatory acid tripping, Boyle writes of the 1960s to come from the perspective of the '60s that will be left behind. It is Leary’s inner circle that soon finds itself on the outside—outside the academy, society, and the law—living in its own bubble, a bubble that will burst once acid emerges from the underground and doses the so-called straight world. In the process, what was once a means to a scientific or spiritual end becomes a hedonistic end in itself. And Fitz finds his family, his future, his morals, and his mind at risk. “I could use a little less party and a little more purpose—whatever happened to that?” he asks, long after the balance has been tipped.

Keeping his own stylistic flamboyance in check, Boyle evokes a cultural flashpoint with implications that transcend acid flashbacks.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-288298-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Awards & Accolades

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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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