Entering a Self fantasy (Grey Area, 1996, etc.) demands both a strong stomach and a readiness to experience narrative pyrotechnics, but in this second novel (after My Idea of Fun, 1994), in which an artist wakes up after a bender to discover that his entire world is now run by chimpanzees, these demands are amply rewarded. Not only is the world run by chimpanzees, but the painter Simon Dykes finds that his girlfriend has turned into a chimp. And that's not all: The increasingly frenzied painter notices that he's becoming a bit hairy as well. The ultimate mind-bender arrives with the emergency psychiatric team: There's not a human being among them. Simon goes comatose and is hauled off to the psycho ward. Enter Dr. Zack Busner, controversial but respected chimpanzee analyst, whose method includes taking his most flamboyant cases on talk shows. Busner has never seen a case like Simon's before, and he marvels at the consistency of the artist's human delusions when his charge recovers sufficiently to communicate. After all, he tells Simon, he is a chimpanzee. Whence came this odd idea that he's a human? (Humans are a sad, grubby species, condescended to by the articulate, successful chimp world.) He takes Simon into his home, a normal chimp domicile full of sub-adults, mating frenzies, and group grooming sessions, there to work intensely with his patient—and, by degrees, Simon does begin to adjust to his new reality. He still has human memories, however, and Busner, in an attempt to get to the bottom of Simon's obsession, sets out with him in tow to the missing link in the puzzle—a search leading to the heart of Africa and one of the world's few remaining populations of wild humans. Vividly imagined, extraordinarily credible, provocative and entertaining in equal measure—and the detailing of chimp/human behavior allows Self's libidinous, ferociously satirical, scatological zeal to flourish. HoooGraa! (First printing of 30,000; $50,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8021-1617-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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