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A graceful exploration of loneliness, “their true covenant,” and the worm that gnaws at the heart of all things.

Call it Peyton Place with Uzis: Israeli novelist Hedaya finds the worm in an exceedingly shiny apple.

Best known for writing the Israeli TV series and HBO import In Treatment, Hedaya shows a marked fascination in the way people think—or, often, fail to think. Of one character, Alona, he writes, by way of example, “Her mind had wandered to two different places, as if she were walking two dogs, each pulling in the opposite direction.” Alona has reason to be confused. Like the other residents of the gated community of Eden, a place set off from the lesser denizens of Israeli society but not entirely free of them, she’s a mess: her soon-to-be-ex-husband is always around; one of her teenage kids is a budding sexpot and boozer in training; and her other kid wallows in depression. Or maybe not. “He’s not depressed, says Mark, her estranged spouse. "On the contrary, Alona, he’s flourishing. You just can’t see it.” Mark’s got troubles of his own, but at least the Italian restaurant he recently opened “at the edge of the moshav, right in the woods, on land the council had agreed to lease to him practically for free” has a chance of surviving. Daughter Roni, on the other hand, seems bent on self-destruction, though she harbors a not-so-secret desire to get pregnant. So does Dafna, their neighbor, who has tried every method of fertilization that science has to offer. And so it is in Eden, a place of intertwining lives founded by Holocaust survivors as a socialist farming collective, now devolved into a California-style sea of one- and two-story pastel bungalows and mini-mansions, where nothing much happens—but when it does, it speaks to the baser instincts of humans. Just so, Hedaya’s novel moves from page to page without much action but with plenty of mutual misunderstanding and miscommunication—
the very stuff, in other words, of life.

A graceful exploration of loneliness, “their true covenant,” and the worm that gnaws at the heart of all things.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9265-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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