Buck scholars only need apply.

THE ETERNAL WONDER

A newly unearthed novel by the Nobel Prize–winning author of The Good Earth, following the rocketlike rise of a literary prodigy.

In the final years of her life, Buck (1892-1973) worked on this novel, which was discovered in late 2012 in a storage unit in Fort Worth, Texas. Buck earned her fame by illuminating China for Americans who understood little about the country, but she squandered her reputation with overproductivity, writing more than 40 novels and nearly 30 nonfiction books. This book will do little to elevate her literary esteem. It tracks its hero, Randolph “Rann” Colfax, literally from the womb and into his early 20s, and the story is framed with wooden set pieces and melodramatic dialogue. The son of a college professor, Rann quickly emerges as a boy genius, and various people soon materialize to support or take advantage of this bright boy. A male teacher attempts to seduce him (prompting an odd lecture from Rann’s mother, who’s less concerned with pedophilia than homosexuality). A wealthy English woman helps him find his sexual self, and the daughter of a Chinese art dealer introduces him to the charms of Paris. In the military, Rann monitors the Korean DMZ, and he witnesses enough corruption during his stint to produce a novel that quickly becomes a sensation. The hackneyed plot diminishes moments that reveal Buck’s genuine sensitivity to the Asian diaspora; one of the best-drawn characters is the Chinese manservant of Rann’s grandfather in Brooklyn. Written late in her life, this book is worth attention as a summing up of Buck's experiences and interests: the links between art and scientific rigor, the fate of Asia in the American century and the perils of literary celebrity. As entertainment, though, it’s dated and thin.

Buck scholars only need apply.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4804-3970-2

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

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MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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