The latest by the author of the witty The Thought Gang (1995), etc., is a disappointment of mind-numbing proportions. It reaches so far for comic effect that it stumbles badly and ends by seeming little more than a bland tale of frustration and confusion in matters of the heart. The gimmick is simple: Fischer tells his contemporary story in the voice of a pot—a ceramic bowl from Mesopotamia that's over 6,000 years old. The idea is that the object of collectors through the centuries now gets to turn the tables and comment on its owners, which makes this a sort of postmodern comedic comment on Bruce Chatwin's high modernist novel Utz. And that's the best one can say about the resulting strained narrative romp. The frame story concerns a young art appraiser named Rosa, a ``scrutinizer'' and diviner who can spot fakes in an instant and who can sense the complex histories of each object she fondles. This particular piece of ``pottery worth a lottery'' comes into her possession to be appraised for a ``lugal'' (the pot's term for wealthy collectors) of maniacal disposition. Meanwhile, a nympho-kleptomaniac connives her way into Rosa's life, performing acts of thievery (and sex) that are increasingly outrageous. But Rosa's mind is elsewhere: She falls under the sway of a columnist to the lovelorn whose advice lost Rosa her last boyfriend. Interspersed throughout this main story are the many tales imparted by the pot, itself a cracked narrator of bizarre fables involving its previous owners: the man who couldn't kill his wife; the spurned lover who couldn't succeed at suicide; the village called ``Arsehole''; the ship that sailed for Cathay but never left Venice; and Odile, the collector of insane poets. There's also a running joke about frozen iguanas. For all of its manic inventiveness—the wordplay, the rhymes, the new vocabulary—Fischer's goofy novel is a victim of its own cleverness. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-5118-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1997

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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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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