A work that weaves art and history into a fascinating tale.

POLLAK'S ARM

This historical novel depicts a few hours and many memories in the life of a Jewish art dealer.

Ludwig Pollak, an Austrian antiquities dealer and museum director in Rome, gained fame in the art world in 1906 for finding the missing right arm of the father figure in the classical sculpture Laocoön and His Sons, which stands in the Vatican Museums. In his fictional debut, von Trotha, a German historian and former book-publishing executive, imagines an encounter on Oct. 17, 1943, between a Vatican emissary identified only as K. and Pollak at the latter’s Rome apartment. K., who narrates the meeting, has been sent to offer Pollak and his family sanctuary in Vatican City because the Nazis will soon start rounding up Jews in the city. But K. is frustrated in his efforts, as Pollak, who is 75, uses the occasion to reminisce about catalogs he has written, collectors he has dealt with, and the turns his life has taken amid the growing pressures of antisemitism. His monologues are occasionally interrupted by the intrigued but increasingly nervous K., who has a car waiting outside and knows they should get going before curfew. The novel resembles a one-act play with two main performers and other figures made present by allusion and eloquence. Here they include Pollak’s memories of Rodin, Richard Strauss, and J.P. Morgan, among others, and his admiration of Goethe, who wrote an essay on the Laocoön group. The old man can sound proud, pompous, erudite, aloof, but he isn’t indulging in nostalgia for his greatest hits. He feels compelled to give a personal account of his life, regarding this as a duty more important than fleeing ahead of the Nazi roundup. Von Trotha had access to Pollak’s diaries, letters, and archival material, and he benefits from a smooth translation by Lauffer. He achieves much in this slim book, capturing a life enriched by its commitment to art and antiquities and a man who makes an unusual decision when faced with a crucial choice.

A work that weaves art and history into a fascinating tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-954404-00-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: New Vessel Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

THE RAVAGED

This debut novel from Walking Dead actor Reedus follows three thematically connected yet narratively unrelated people as they journey to find themselves.

Hunter, a heavily tatted Iraq War vet and self-proclaimed gearhead, attacks his boss at the bike shop after catching him kicking a dog. “Hunter was old school,” the narrator says, rough-hewn but with strong moral fiber and a heart of gold. After learning his father died in a “mysterious house fire” in California, Hunter hops on his Buell S1 motorcycle alongside his buddies Nugget and Itch for a cross-country haul to execute the will. Meanwhile, a wealthy 65-year-old executive named Jack is mugged while traveling aimlessly through South America, neither the first nor the last of his hardships. Jack abandoned his cushy, bloodless office lifestyle after his dying mother told him to “run and never look back,” words he continuously labors to unpack. Finally, Anne, an abused teenage girl in Tennessee, steals her father’s savings and .38 revolver and runs away from home, clobbering her brother upside the head with a cast-iron skillet when he tries to stop her. She connects with her friend Trot, and they join a community of train-hoppers. Co-written by Bill, the story reads like a pastiche of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter of which is name-dropped as “great” by multiple characters. Though occasionally hitting some beautiful imagery of the American heartland, Reedus falls victim to implausible dialogue—“Fabiola, you are reading me like a stock report,” Jack says—and overcooked language: “flesh the color of a high-dollar medium-roast coffee bean.” Frequently wordy summaries do little to develop the thinly sketched characters; we know nearly as much about them on Page 25 as on Page 250.

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-09-416680-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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