A modest tale of quiet sincerity, good-natured and freshly narrated, but it needs more bite than Morton’s dull characters...


Morton (Starting Out in the Evening, 1998, etc.) describes the complicated emotional life of a writer who cannot resist putting her friends into her stories.

At 35, Manhattan author Nora is too young for a midlife crisis, but she’s going through a bad patch all the same. On the verge of breaking up with her boyfriend Benjamin, she feels that her life has somehow stalled. A professional writer for the last 15 years, she hasn’t published more than about five short stories—some of them very well received, but still—and has yet to attempt a novel. Lonely and depressed, Nora picks up the telephone one night and calls her old flame Isaac, a photographer she hasn’t spoken to since she broke up with him five years ago. He’s recently taken a job as a photo editor and moved to the suburbs, but he’s still single and very happy to hear from her again. They meet for lunch and somewhat tentatively renew their friendship. Each has a different reason for caution: Nora is desperately unsure of herself and afraid of life in general; Isaac is still in love with her and wonders why she’s called. As they cat-and-mouse their way around each other, life goes on as usual. Isaac keeps himself busy with his job and his young friend Renee, who may or may not be attracted to him. Nora works on her stories and tries to help her beloved Aunt Billie, who is dying of breast cancer. Along the way, however, Nora makes her perennial mistake: She puts Isaac in one of her stories—and shows it to him. This bad habit has cost her more than one friend in the past. Will it wreck things with Isaac? Or can one artist see his way to understanding the foibles of another?

A modest tale of quiet sincerity, good-natured and freshly narrated, but it needs more bite than Morton’s dull characters can provide.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-100757-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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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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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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