Draped lightly on the reader, Lopez’s moral fiber offers a protection against diminishment and offers security for acting on...


Nine vignettes framed as letters addressing questions of personal responsibility in a diminished world: obliquely revelatory yet fiercely biting.

The letters come from writers and activists on the lam from what may be perceived as threats from the Office of Homeland Security, though Lopez (Light Action in the Caribbean, 2000, etc.), a National Book Award–winner, is not so bald as to state the threat as such (he terms it “Inland Security, the group of people we had come to call the Idiots of Light”). As ever, Lopez’s writing is economical, full of silences demanding that the reader unfold the mysteries embedded in them. But the mind’s eye is fully nourished; Lopez uses each letter-writer’s sense of place as context, circumstance, opportunity, and beauty: seams of lapis lazuli, the braided perfume of orchids and ridisses, the primed landscape that glitters at its edges, “the wordless kinship . . . an elusive and elevated physical sense of being present in the world.” Yet place and nature aren’t paramount in Lopez’s concerns, as is often the case; rather, the inner struggles—devotion to life, love, tolerance, innocence, and ideals of justice—occupy center stage with the force of concentrated light. The letter-writers are indigenous rights workers, social historians, translators, civil rights advocates, land activists, ex-soldiers, curators, and artists, each of them a threat to fear-mongering, indifference, goose-stepping, and state scrutiny. This is because they work to dodge the memory hole—“everything, even the buffalo, is still around . . . as long as people are telling stories about them”—and because they envision “what it can mean to have your country under you like a hammock . . . instead of using your people as fodder in a war to control the world’s meaning and expression.”

Draped lightly on the reader, Lopez’s moral fiber offers a protection against diminishment and offers security for acting on awareness, coherence, decency, and grace. (Nine monotypes by Alan Magee.)

Pub Date: June 13, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4220-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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