A discerning historical analysis combined with an affecting romance.

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THE WIRE RECORDER

A love story explores the ramifications of McCarthyism during the Cold War. 

In this debut novel, Larry Hearn is a Hollywood screenwriter with a promising future. But in 1951, the House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenas him as part of its frantic search for seditious Communists infiltrating the film industry in the United States. He refuses to sell out his peers and defiantly rebukes questions about his membership in the Communist Party, instead delivering a rousing defense of his First Amendment protections. Larry’s rebelliousness, though, costs him his career. In the aftermath of his testimony, he’s blacklisted within the movie industry and never quite recovers professionally. His daughter, Sophie, is deeply affected by his experience, and after some shiftless years in college, she becomes the director of a private but tuition-free elementary school she envisions as an alternative to its racist, classist competitors. She eventually meets Steve Elwood—they were actually friends as very young children—an aspiring filmmaker, whose father, Arthur, was also a screenwriter blacklisted for his political affiliations. Sophie and Steve slowly fall in love, but their blooming romance is threatened by a dark secret in his family’s past, one that forces both of them to confront the different political legacies they inherited from their fathers. Levitt’s story is a historically sensitive rendering of an ideologically tempestuous time, and he’s to be commended for an impressively evenhanded portrayal unencumbered by obvious partisan allegiances. The author powerfully captures the profound paranoia of the early ’50s—one of Sophie’s grade-school teacher’s ominously remarks: “There are Communists right here in our community, living amongst us, plotting against us. Look at the movie industry. Communists and their fellow travelers are making movies again, just like they were in the forties.” In addition, the book’s authenticity is largely the result of its characters, drawn with realistic emotional complexity. But the plot’s pace is far too languorous—Sophie’s meandering before she becomes a teacher is described at luxurious length. Still, this is a keen peek into a tumultuous time in American history. 

A discerning historical analysis combined with an affecting romance. 

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9973107-0-2

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 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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