A WAY IN THE WORLD

A SEQUENCE

This work of "fiction" from Naipaul (The Enigma of Arrival, 1993, etc.) is really a label-defying tapestry of elements, a fascinating, closely woven blend of history, character study, and autobiography. Naipaul's wonderfully vivid, lyrical descriptions of Trinidad, his homeland, reflect a mind whose every experience seems to have been carefully captured in amber. The theme that repeats throughout is the shifting nature of reality as it is refracted through the eyes and thoughts of those who shaped Trinidadian and South American colonial history — and those who fumble for identity in its aftermath. Naipaul struggles to imagine an earlier, aboriginal Trinidad that preceded the villages and sugar-cane fields and coconut estates of his childhood, attempting to grasp a sense of history that he never felt growing up in the voided legacy of colonialism: The "idea of a background — and what it contained: order and values and the possibility of striving: perfectibility — made sense only when people were more truly responsible for themselves. We weren't responsible in that way. Much had been taken out of our hands. We didn't have backgrounds. We didn't have a past.... We were just there, floating." Naipaul dissects the dreams and the realities of Spanish and British imperialism, examining "impresarios of revolution" such as Venezuelan conqueror Francisco Miranda, whose New World visions included "fantasies of Incas worthy of Plato's republic, fantasies which (like Columbus's ideas about the New World, and Raleigh's) also contained a dream of a fabulous personal authority." By individualizing the colonial and postcolonial experience, Naipaul reveals its human roots: the restless search for identity, for a sense of completion, that drove conquerors and conquered alike — that, as Naipaul tells us, drove him to become a writer.

Pub Date: May 25, 1994

ISBN: 0-394-56478-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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