A short, spiky meditation on mortality delivered with nihilistic glee.

THE NOTHING

A successful and aging film director suspects those he's closest to may be plotting against him.

Kureishi’s eighth novel (The Last Word, 2015, etc.) is narrated with a blackhearted charm by Waldo, whose illustrious movie career and sexual history are, to his regret, mostly behind him. (He is “old, sick, right out of semen,” he informs us in the first sentence.) He putters about his London mansion in his wheelchair (“my chariot of ire”), questioning the attentions of his wife, Zenab, and Eddie, a journalist and fan organizing events on his behalf. Is Eddie as interested in Waldo’s art as he says he is? Is Zenab’s love for Waldo as pure as she claims? And are the two of them carrying on an affair behind Waldo’s back (indeed, in the next room)? Kureishi’s slim novel isn’t very complex in terms of plot, but it argues that you can have some of your fears confirmed and still be consumed by an unhealthy paranoid attitude. When Eddie disappears with a loan, Waldo calls in an actor friend to investigate, eagerly receiving sexual and financial gossip about the man allegedly cuckolding him. The story is sodden with soap-opera turns (slaps to the face, a scheme to gather enemies in one place), but the book thrives on Waldo’s voice, electric with resentment. “I am like an aged ape in a suspended cage in the corner, unable to even spit at the guests,” he fumes; recalling his film career, he intones that “we lure audiences into a trap of pleasure by letting them watch crimes.” It’s hard to love a character so sour, but a man with nothing to lose who’s turned resentment into an art form is hard to turn your eyes away from.

A short, spiky meditation on mortality delivered with nihilistic glee.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-571-33201-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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