Often accomplished, always interesting work from a writer who seems to be still finding his voice.

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THE SLEEP-OVER ARTIST

Like its predecessor, Seduction Theory (1995), this energetic collection of 12 related short stories explores various formative events in the life of documentary filmmaker Alex Fader.

Well into adulthood, Alex is still looking (mostly in all the wrong places) for the love snatched away from him in his youth by his German-born father's early death from cancer and his `artistic` mother's inconstant maternal feeling. Thus Alex `sleeps over` at school-friends' homes and later in the lives of his lovers, most of whom, like the much older, divorced Englishwoman in the overattenuated `Seconds of Pleasure,` simply don't connect with his highly internalized existence. Alex is a potentially strong character, and Beller presents his emotional rootlessness most effectively in the opening stories, notably `Falling Water` and `Great Jews in Sports,` which feature dead-on renderings of the ways in which preadolescents process adult realities, keeping a safe, sardonic distance from devotion or commitment while never quite scratching the insistent itch to be accepted and to belong. Beller's tendency toward Salinger-like summary wisecracks (`German was the language of someone being really angry while in their underwear`) sometimes breaks the reader's concentration on Alex's defensive introspection, a problem that increases when the protagonist begins observing and recording his own experiences. Often enough, however, Alex comes through as a beguiling combination of smartass, nerd, and soulfully horny young man. And in the better stories—“Natural Selection,` in which the suicide of a classmate's father awakens Alex’s memories of his own father's death; and the wonderful `Vas is Dat ?` a loving, grieving portrayal of an elderly aunt's senility, which both echoes and prefigures Alex's own solipsism—he becomes even more complex and sentient.

Often accomplished, always interesting work from a writer who seems to be still finding his voice.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-393-04925-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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