FULL MOON OVER AMERICA

Once again, Simpson (The Gypsy Storyteller, 1993, etc.) takes a popular form—previously the family dynasty saga, here the political biography—and tweaks it to produce giggles but few belly laughs. The novel opens on January 20, 2001, with political reporter Jack Steel standing outside of the rustic island home of 32-year- old president-elect William Conrad Brant MacKenzie. Steel explains ``into the camera'' that there are several controversial factors surrounding MacKenzie's election and promises to delve into the background of ``The Last Innocent Man in America.'' What follows is a mix of reporting on MacKenzie's family background (beginning with his foul-mouthed fat-cat great-grandfather, who once sent a postcard from New Zealand reading, ``I have come halfway around the world...Big fucking deal'') and excerpts from the journals that MacKenzie has kept since he was 10, as well as the occasional exchange between Steel and his subject. Simpson perfectly re- creates the tone of modern, and presumably future, television journalism; his Steel both takes an overly familiar air and insists that he has played no part in the story itself, which turns out to be patently untrue. MacKenzie, however, is never clearly rendered and resembles various political figures at different points in the book. He is alternately portrayed as a political blank slate (Quayle); a wealthy family's son (Bush); a loose cannon running on an independent ticket (Perot); and the author of a book on the environment (Gore). His journals also reveal his single-minded devotion to his now-deceased wife, Dawn, and a childhood friend notes that she expected Dawn, not her husband, to be president some day (guess who). Clearly this slippery hold on MacKenzie's personality is meant to reveal something about the intersection of politics and journalism, but it reveals nothing interesting and instead weakens the satire. Original concepts that fizzle, from an author whose best work is probably still to come.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 1994

ISBN: 0-446-51808-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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