An expansive historical novel that ably evokes its time and place.

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A PERFECT BLINDNESS

Hunt, in his first novel, tells the story of two musicians trying to make it in the late-1980s Chicago scene.

Jonathan Starks and Scott Marshall were only supposed to come to Chicago for a party, but when the opportunity to rent a rehearsal space presents itself, the Columbus musicians jump at the chance to start fresh in the big city in 1988. Jonathan sings, plays keyboard, and gets all the attention, even if he thinks the comparisons that he gets to the late Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis are facile. He feels guilty about leaving his girlfriend, Amy, behind in Ohio—she’s done so much to help him grow as a person, after all—but the Windy City has no shortage of beautiful women to inspire his songwriting. Scott’s personal darkness is rooted in the death of his childhood friend, Sammy, who met a violent end years ago. He’s afraid of being abandoned again, and of getting taken for granted. It becomes clear that ambition can bring people together, but it can also serve as a wedge between old friends. Jonathan and Scott change their sound to fit in with the local craze for a new genre of music: “It’s music for your body to move to,” says Jonathan. “Electronic body music.” They recruit new members and are reborn as a group called Mercurial Visions. They find success, but not so much that the failures of their pasts don’t catch up with them, with some deadly consequences. Hunt writes in a dense, passionate prose that strives to enliven everything it touches. His description of a photographer could easily describe himself as an author: “His eyes seek; they’re always hunting, locking onto things for a moment….He’s like a hawk scanning the ground for something small and hard to see to swoop down upon and catch.” The intensity of the language, though, grows somewhat exhausting over the book’s 400-plus pages, particularly when combined with the obsessiveness of the main characters. That said, Hunt successfully conjures the story’s time and a place in masterful detail. Jonathan and Scott are not quite likable, but they are recognizable as the kind of ruthlessly creative types who find success only when they can keep their demons in check.

An expansive historical novel that ably evokes its time and place.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5320-1012-5

Page Count: 434

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2017

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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