"Duplex" by Kathryn Davis

Friday, May 13, 2016

Kathryn Davis wrote the multilevel and arresting Duplex in a feminine palette, by which I mean the chief characters, the main driving focus, and the lens through which life is viewed, are all female. And on this palette she has loosed an array of forces and fictional effects, with which readers (like me) will struggle to come to grips with. She tells a story of shifts in the fabric of space and time, of robot guides to eternity, which features a sorcerer who takes souls. I find it quite the challenge to pin down and evaluate.

The main plot, if there is one, concerns a woman who, as a young girl, falls in love with a neighbor boy. A sorcerer in a metallic gray car steals the boy’s soul, however, and in a Faustian transaction the boy becomes a famous baseball player. This girl, Mary, later marries the sorcerer, perhaps while hypnotized (so little of this episode is rendered in the story). Mary then becomes the mother of Blue-Eyes, a machine-daughter who started life as a yellow Teddy Bear. Mary leaves the sorcerer late in life, is transported through a wormhole, and performs admirably with poorly identified but heavy cosmic stakes on the line.

Obviously I’m having a hard time prioritizing plot elements. I only want to give the potential reader a flavor of what’s on offer.

Most clearly, however, this book contains a series of lovely chapters each of which stands as a memorable short piece, particularly “The Four Horsewomen,” “The Rain of Beads,” and “Descent of the Aquanauts.” The clear theme carried by these pieces is the murderous mistreatment of girls and women, and the need such mistreatment engenders for escape. But girls and women own these themes; Ms. Davis expresses them through their voices and points of view. An oracle of dubious trustworthiness enraptures the girls as they reach puberty, and continues to lecture them through their lives into advanced middle age. We learn a substantial amount from this irascible know-it-all, much of it told in dreamy monologue, as though she were talking to herself.

One striking element: grade-school girls experience
a large portion of the angst and express many of the opinions and instruct a considerable number of the lessons here. Time shifts backward and forward with startling ease, so this is readily possible in Ms. Davis’s plot. However delightful the author’s skill in rendering the shifting universe in vivid visuals, there are so many elements that no single one dominates. Robots inhabit homes and look like people and can see infinitely forward and back in time. The sorcerer steals souls, but getting rich from shady real estate deals can’t be the reason he does it, can it? Who is Downie, and how does he know the robots so well? Why does the grade school teacher figure so prominently before utterly disappearing? How come there are overgrown rabbits in the countryside?

I ask too many questions, I know, and perhaps it proves I’m missing the point. This is a highly diverting read from a very inventive author. It takes an unorthodox (to say the least) approach to explore essential human themes, and recondite cosmic themes as well. Unfortunately I find myself nonplussed. If these treatments and tropes interest you, by all means take it up. Ms. Davis’s talent for invention speaks for itself.

"We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think" by Shirley Hazzard

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Shirley Hazzard, author of two magnificent novels I have read, The Great Fire and The Transit of Venus, collected a series of lectures and reviews in a slim volume, called We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think. It concludes with a series of reviews of novels, only one of which I had read. I found her review of that book unfortunately too brief to do more than touch on some basic points.

Ms. Hazzard brings up some edifying insights in a series of lectures called “The Lonely Word.” They serve as a fairly straightforward observations about fiction that clearly bear repeating. She establishes early on that the narrative art dealt originally with the large-scale undertaking by larger-than-life actors: war, challenging the gods, going on great quests. She says the First World War made it impossible to ever focus on the grand canvas again. The actions of rulers during that great and tragically shortsighted conflict proved wasteful and idiotic. As T.S Eliot said, “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?”

Narrative art has focused on the personal ever since. Inward journeys, the overheard dialogue with oneself, invented by Shakespeare and not improved upon since, form the basis for the bulk of current fiction, and is part of the reason we find it so compelling. As a follow-on concept, Ms. Hazzard avers, 

"Articulation is an aspect of human survival, not only in its commemorative and descriptive function, but in relieving the human soul of incoherence. In so far as expression can be matched to sensation and event, human nature seems to retain consciousness.”


How much more rudimentary, or more persuasive, can a statement be? As a reason for writing, and a bald formula for it, Ms. Hazzard
cannot have said it any better. She cites Yeats, who said he wrote to give emotions expressions for his own pleasure: otherwise 

“all would be oratorical and insincere. If we understand our own minds, and the things that are striving to utter themselves through our minds, we move others, not because we have understood or thought about those others, but because all life has the same root.”


These bracing and simple statements about writing provide an antidote to some of the more arcane thoughts about narrative expressed by Derrida and Bakhtin, for example. I want to thank the author for her perspective and her thoughts and recommend this collection to anyone caught up in recondite language concepts and struggling to see the bigger picture.

"Beautiful to the Bone" by PG Lengsfelder

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Eunis is born with unique genetic markers: she’s albino, and has a very prominent brown birthmark on her face that runs down to her neck. Unfortunately her mother is a superstitious bumpkin who convinces Eunis that she’s some kind of ugly freak, not to be trusted, a bringer of bad luck.

Much of the energy of this book derives from this conflict. Eunis accepts this verdict at a basic level, even as she resents and rebels against her mother. Additionally, she finds she has perceptions and powers which she struggles to understand. Harnessing them remains out of the question. The plot follows this unique being through a difficult solitude in school, in her brief marriage, and later in her lonely quest to define beauty through some objective criteria.

And in this, Mr. Lengsfelder has built the most interesting feature of this rather patchy work. His heroine, however convinced she is of her own ugliness, nevertheless attracts a series of others, some of whom find her irresistible. He sets his lead character on a lifelong quest to define beauty: she studies genetics, works in a lab that tests various genetic properties, and keeps measuring and analyzing her own attraction to others.

Beyond this potentially interesting setup, the book struggles to find a pace or a compelling principle upon which to build its narrative. We travel along with Eunis, and we cringe when she inadvertently hurts or insults people, or damages their careers, or pushes potentially appealing partners away. We wonder at the import of her visions and voices. Things happen to her because of her good intentions, but mostly her focus is herself, and protecting her privacy, which she values so highly because
of her disgust with her own looks.

And given the way her mother treated her when she was young, I cannot accept her move back home to help this vituperative, toxic creature. There is also a quick, befuddling murder mystery at the end of the book, and we end up with very little idea of the motivation for the killing, and only slightly more of an idea who did it.

I found Eunis moderately appealing at times, but very, very inconsistent in her decisions, and downright annoying most of the time. It could be that Eunis is meant to put the reader off, or to make the reader ponder the principles of physical attraction, but I did not find her an overall success. And that’s the same way I view this book.

"The Idea of Perfection" by Kate Grenville

Saturday, April 9, 2016

In The Idea of Perfection we experience very closely the inner dialogues of three major players who proceed with varying degrees of self-consciousness. Two of them are painfully self-aware; they concern themselves deeply with how others view them, and assume the worst. The third navigates her life as thought she’s a spectator in it: she nearly dissociates herself from her less desirable acts, while trying, perhaps subconsciously, to atone for them in her more-aware moments. This brilliant book won the 2000 Orange Prize for fiction and completely deserves it.

Two lives converge in the bush country of New South Wales as the book begins. Two strangers arrive independently in Karakarook from Sydney, one a government engineer who will manage the destruction and replacement of an out-of-date bridge, and the other a specialist in heritage and culture who will assist in establishing a museum. He, the gawky engineer with the jug-handle ears and a crippling lack of confidence, and she, the tall, heavyset, and irascible curator, encounter each other. They do not hit if off immediately, to say the least, and the unlikely first date (a delightfully comic stretch of writing) doesn’t help.

But Ms. Grenville, one of my favorites since I encountered The Secret River, has set up the lovely, elegant narrative construct of the crumbling bridge. This simple, past-its-prime span, built from timber and intended to last, has
suffered from the effects of a flood some years ago. Certain townsfolk protest the decision to replace it, citing it as one of the chief historical attractions of the backwater town.

All these facts serve the author’s conceit of building bridges, of spanning obstacles, between people. However effectively this framework is established, though, its resolution rises solely from human action - thought, reflection, intention, and deed. And herein lies Ms. Grenville’s greatest feat. The principals themselves must come to terms with their habitual isolation, and decide whether the opportunity before them  offers sufficient potential for them to change. There are many touches here - too many to mention - that certify the author’s great skill and award-winning vision. Cover to cover this is a great, a masterful performance.

"The Laughing Monsters" by Denis Johnson

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Denis Johnson obviously has a thing for espionage as it’s supposedly practiced today. Although it’s set a few decades in the past, Tree of Smoke centered on the gathering, use, and misuse of intelligence, in particular military intelligence. In The Laughing Monsters we get spies plying their trade again, although in this case the misbehavior seems to drown out the good behavior. The Laughing Monsters features Denis Johnson’s unvarnished prose in the service of a seemingly random plot - there’s no reason a spy caper should follow logic, is there? - and a venal, unstable, impossible-to-predict first person narrator. It’s engaging as hell.

The height of Mr. Johnson’s powers comes into play here: we accompany a presumably competent narrator through a halting, lurching reality, some of it built on a seeming sense, the rest on lunatic delusion, or maybe hallucination. This presentation challenges the reader to keep her balance as best she can, because she’s going to need it to weather the storms of apparent betrayal, incarceration, near-death from thirst, and the constant - and not always successful - running from the authorities.

On the face of the narrative, we have Nair, a captain in the Danish army and spy for an arm of NATO. In Sierra Leone he meets up with a friend, a black man, Michael Adriko, from an African tribe, who has lived in the US for some time. Michael is “attached” as a trainer to the US Army but might be AWOL. Michael has cooked up a harebrained scheme to sting some very shady characters out of millions by selling them fake enriched uranium. Nair has an equally underhanded scheme afoot when the two team up. While trailing along with him, Nair helps Micheal defy death in a couple of frightening scrapes, while trying to steal his fiancée, who for some reason is with Michael in Africa.

Yes, it’s a screwy plot, delightfully so; rather simple on the surface, but full of convolutions underneath. I found the most entertaining prose written in the dialog. Nair’s interrogation by an American intelligence official is supreme.  I wanted to put in a sample, but there’s just too much. The verbal sparring between the spy and the counterspy, often in sentences of three or fewer words, is priceless. I laughed, I reread it,
and I laughed all over again. Conversations among Nair, Michael, and the fiancée Davidia, are almost as funny.

The Laughing Monsters is a slim, entertaining spy caper, where spies use their knowledge and skills to reach for ill-gotten gains. We don’t know for most of the book whether Nair and Michael are friends or enemies. There is certainly no giveaway or hint of how the thing will turn out, so no spoilers here, either.

The monsters of the title are many: there is a mountain range called that, the ubiquitous armed bands of looters and rapists that populate parts of Africa are certainly monsters, and the U.S., which displays its monstrousness through military assets and its use of law for convenience. I compare this to Nobody Move, Johnson’s celebrated short piece, for its focus on the moral shadows, for its brand of action, and for its injection of delightful dialog.

"Warriors of the Storm" by Bernard Cornwell

Friday, March 25, 2016

The ninth entry in Bernard Cornwell’s rousing Saxon Chronicles series, Warriors of the Storm does not disappoint. Of course featuring the heroics of Lord Uhtred and his hard-bitten band, this effort distinguishes itself with a quicker, more relentless pace than in some of the recent books in the series. In quick succession, Uhtred uses Mercian fighters to push Norseman Ragnall Ivarson and his superior numbers away from the walled city of Ceaster (present-day Chester), harries the invader into flight, steals across the Irish Sea to rescue his daughter and son-in-law, turns Ragnall’s army against him, and installs his son-in-law Sigtryggr as king of Northumbria.

About the only thing Uhtred doesn’t get to is recapturing his ancestral seat, the fortress at Bebbanburg (currently called Bamburgh). At the end of the book, though, he’s gearing up to a run at that.

So, we know at least one more chapter in the Lord Uhtred series is on the way from over at Bernard Cornwell’s thrill works.

I find the books in this series unputdownable. I read the just-under 300 pages in two
sittings, and in my ridiculous schedule, that’s remarkable. Mr. Cornwell always places us in the midst of 10th-century Wessex, but also keeps us hanging on cliffs as the plot sneaks and snakes and rears up. I completely admit to escaping to a far-off time and place while reading this series; it’s effective, memorable, entertaining, and gratifying. I do, I love it.

"My Name is Lucy Barton" by Elizabeth Strout

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, is causing a sensation among readers and critics, as well it might. In its halting, diffident tones, it elucidates one woman’s struggle to understand her past, her family, and especially her mother. It’s a book in which human emotion and motivation must be guessed at - the first-person protagonist, Lucy, keeps guessing throughout, including trying to puzzle out her mother while she’s standing in the same room with her. The whole is memorable, affecting, and somehow ennobling.

Lucy went into the hospital a long time ago, to have her appendix out, but mysterious complications arise in surgery’s wake. Her mother surprises her (at Lucy’s husband’s urging and financial support) by paying a visit to her there. It isn’t necessarily what they say to each other, but more how they talk through the sometimes difficult history, the haunting memories each has of Lucy’s youth. These plain, charming conversations lead to recollections and speculation, and they lead Lucy to writing her reaction. She recalls features of her childhood and her brother and sister; she remembers having to fake being an adult in modern society because she came out of her childhood with almost no understanding of modern beliefs and attitudes.

Lucy Barton is a remarkable character: endearing, self-deprecating, successful and worldly in spite of the emotional poverty of her childhood. Her voice and her observations, and her brutal honesty with herself form this entire book, and it all works superbly. Ms. Strout has clothed the narrative in two shades, it seems to me, and reflects them off the iconic Chrysler Building, which is visible from Lucy’s hospital room. During the day, the building’s ornate top fades into the late spring sky, its colors unremarkable. At night though, the shiny symbol of humanity’s hopeful, upward urges takes over, and rises above the glittering streets below.
This convoluted yet graceful talisman gathers up and distills the complex, roiling human strivings of the mortals below; it announces that Lucy, even with her bleak childhood, has a noble, creative spirit, and especially that she understands and cares about the suffering of others. Beneath the surface of bland language and lack of confidence lies the world’s fullest complement of intelligence and curiosity and charity. It’s Lucy’s recognition of this in herself and in others that lends this shining narrative its class and luminescence.

Take up My Name is Lucy Barton, do not let this opportunity pass by. Books this simple and effective and beautiful don’t come along very often.

"A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding" by Jackie Copleton

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Familial love, betrayal, and secrets drive the elegant A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding. The narrative is placed mostly in Japan and spans the middle of the 20th Century - from the mid 1930s on. Wrenching and life-changing events befall all the characters, of course, and the changes are both outward and inward. This book demonstrates very clearly author Jackie Copleton’s mastery of human striving and emotion, and also her easy conversance with Japanese culture and language. It is stunning, effective stuff.

First-person protagonist Amaterasu Takahashi sustains loss after loss within these pages, her sorest loss being the death of her daughter in the nuclear attack on Nagasaki. And her daughter Yuko, while alive, also causes Amaterasu her deepest worry. She - Yuko - falls for her father’s physician friend, Sato, when only sixteen, and nearly throws her life away for what she believes is love. Amaterasu does everything in her power, not hesitating to deceive and manipulate everyone around her to gain her ends. After the war she and her husband move to America, escaping all the nightmarish family and civic trauma, and she settles into a quiet routine toward the end of her life, with whiskey for company. But then she must face unexpected connections that wake unwanted memories.

Ms. Copleton leads off each chapter with a Japanese word or phrase, and explains its significance to that society’s life and culture. The words often depict traits that are admired in Japan, and words that have a variety of meanings, often in subtle shades and nuances. These vocabulary entries, the “Dictionary” of the title, focus our attention freshly on the characters as events shape and reshape them. But there is a startling and very pleasing extra meaning in “mutual understanding,” one which drives and has driven our dour heroine from page one.


Also, the book has a structure and pace to it that further demonstrate the author’s skill. Amaterasu reluctantly takes out Yuko’s diaries after unexpected events late in her life, and as we read these entries alongside her, she imagines for us the scene and intervening events with a second voice. These juxtapositions, taking place in the plot when they do, affect us with a powerful sense of this author’s elegant conception and execution, and I find her strategy beautiful, a joy to engage.

Take this book up, certainly. Live for a time inside the consciousness of a strong woman who frets and works for those she loves. A gem - startlingly good and memorable.

"Raking the Dust" by John Biscello

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

We amble through Raking the Dust with its first-person narrator, Alex, and none of us seems in much of a hurry. Alex writes a little, drinks a lot, falls for a beautiful, enigmatic singer, and encounters some pretty fantastical stuff. Along the way, author John Biscello treats us to some quirky erudition - we learn the legend of St. Wilgefortis, a bearded female virgin Catholic saint, crucified for disobeying her royal father, but it’s a quote from St. Teresa that really serves as both cautionary signpost and prescription: After describing the soul as a crystal castle of many rooms, she says, “What could be worse that not being at home in your own house? What chance do we have of finding rest outside ourselves if we can’t find peace within?”

This wise sentiment can serve many people but to Alex, our flaneur hero, it legitimizes a lazy self-absorption, unseemly in one of his age. He scrounges out a life in Taos, New Mexico, moving from eviction to eviction, taking the odd writing job and assiduously drinking and drugging himself toward oblivion. The truly arresting developments, physically impossible to us mere mortals, all center around his lady love, Dahlia Jane (DJ to you and me).

I had a hard time pinning down DJ’s dramatic function in Raking the Dust. She spurs our hero to … move to San Francisco so he can … bum around in a place even more expensive than Taos. The action in the avant garde club stretches credulity, as do a number of scenes here, but again, they only seem to lead to Alex’s ultimate estrangement from the girl he loves. That could be exactly the point.


Raking the Dust is not without its charms. Mr. Biscello’s talent reveals itself in a number of details, such as this spot-on observation about a child’s glee at a carnival: “There’s a certain timbre to innocence, when announcing itself, which cannot be duplicated.” And the very offbeat use of lives of the saints to propel his narrative along. But I found myself wishing I had had a shot at editing the book to tighten it up and bring the point into focus. The change in Alex at story’s end, subtle as it is, leaves us up in the air. So many of the other episodes along the way do too, unfortunately.

"The Hidden Bend" by Guy Cranswick

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In The Hidden Bend Guy Cranswick weaves together three very disparate stories of people traversing personal (and physical) terrain that will change their lives - it could be their undoing, or it could be their salvation. Outcomes are unclear for these protagonists, although some are hinted at more strongly than others. This is a distinguished, assured fiction - a worthy, understated piece in which the inner journeys convince and satisfy. I recommend it.

The three heroes, completely unknown to one another, grapple with their own challenges. Piers is a financier working in London; he allows himself to have an affair with a woman who, we clearly see, is a  questionable match for him. In another narrative stream, Nastasyia Vladimirivna must travel from Kiev to New York to identify her murdered daughter and deal with her remains. The third, and perhaps most important, protagonist, is an unnamed ex-soldier, mustered out of the victorious revolutionary army, who must return to civilian life.

It is this third character who in my opinion holds the key to the book. He has survived deadly combat as part of a bloody revolution. The bends in his life could all perhaps have occurred by war’s end, and his civilian life smooth sailing, but no. He returns to his family home, which is still led by a bullying father. He uses his skill as a mechanic to help his family get by, but all it does is get the family deeper into trouble with the new Communist regime.

Mr. Cranswick devotes the fullest and deepest treatment to this character. The new regime, for which this ex-soldier risked life and limb, doesn’t recognize his contribution. In fact, he becomes a fugitive from the authorities simply because he tries to help his impoverished family. There is no way he deserves this treatment, and no way he would have predicted his final outlaw status. If this humble, virtuous man, who has built his own self worth, must cower and run from the mechanism of the state, what hope do any of us have?


Hope draws our heroes onward at the end of their tales. The Ukrainian mother in New York receives help from unexpected quarters, and learns more of her late daughter’s life, and the knowledge changes things for her. Piers’s hopes for himself and his family are the most tenuous of any of the characters’.

The author’s three stories resemble each other; they share the theme of people going through a crucible to a hopeful other side. Obviously I found the story of the ex-soldier the most compelling, and the Ukrainian mother’s only a little less so. The philandering Londoner is an interesting character, but a careless, self-indulgent one, who did not exert the same hold on my interest. Overall, a book well worth your time.

"A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Tale for the Time Being will rivet you to the page. You will share in the lives - trials and triumphs, and cares and grievances, of two Japanese women. One - a teenage girl - has written a diary full of frightful bullying and soul searching; the other is a novelist afraid she is losing her memory, or worse, going mad. As these two heroines’ stories unfold in alternating streams, our clever author mixes in meditations on Zen Buddhism, Japanese imperial wartime excesses, the idea that ordinary people have superpowers, and the possibility we live in multiple universes at once. It’s a rich, heady mix, told in honest, understandable human emotion; Ms. Ozeki’s ineffable results match her lofty ambitions in this beautiful, multifarious novel. It was shortlisted for the 2013 Booker Prize.

Naoko, or Nao, a young Japanese girl about to turn 16, starts keeping a diary. Somehow, about ten years later, a backpack containing it and some letters washes up on the shore of an island in British Columbia. Its discoverer, a novelist named Ruth, picks it up, starts to read it, and quickly feels a bond with this girl and her father, both of whom are beaten down by life. We read Nao’s heartbreaking story alongside Ruth, and drama unfolds in each strand. Nao struggles with cruel beatings and ostracization, her imminent failure in her classes, and beloved dad’s attempted suicides. Ruth relates very closely with Nao, and becomes concerned about her and her dad’s welfare, even though the diary was written ten years before.

These narratives sparkle with philosophical learning and outré possibility. Nao’s voice is pitch-perfect in her portion of the proceedings. But to her also belong the deepest thoughts on philosophical conundrums. She goes on a retreat to visit her great aunt Jiko, 104 year-old Buddhist nun, and finally begins to learn about life, the universe, selflessness, and mysticism. She considers these lessons in a child’s honest voice -  and this is one of Ms. Ozeki’s foremost achievements here: she places into this yearning, confused girl’s unsophisticated language the most challenging and most timeless human questions. What is life and death? How is a life to be lived? How can we most effectively serve others? Why is there so much cruelty in the world?

These considerations take us into the realms also of modern quantum physics; the author provides an appendix (one of several on various subjects) with a detailed explanation of Schrödinger’s cat, for example. And these speculations serve her plot - there’s nothing gratuitous about them. (There is also, as though anything more were needed, a reference to a brief flowering of literature and a liberalization of women’s rights in pre-imperial Japan; this book might also serve as an example of the I-book genre published at that time.)

All the layers, all the twists, all the philosophy, all the superpowers,the fascinating structure - these mix together into a work of genius. Prepare to open yourself to a new experience and take this piece up.

"Gold Fame Citrus" by Claire Vaye Watkins

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Visionary and terrifying, all the moreso for being vivid and startlingly real, Claire Vaye Watkins’s Gold Fame Citrus forces us to consider a world too ghastly to consider. And in that world the tendencies of humans become all too predictable, repeating the same behaviors that have plagued the race forever. This novel will focus your attention like very few others will. Its sweep and energy and horror all executed with sharp, assured artistry, it clearly fulfills the promise of Ms. Watkins’s earlier short story collection, Battleborn.

Far enough into a profligate, misguided future, no water exists in the western half of North America, and the United States has basically evacuated the land west of the Mississippi, and then written it off.  Our story begins in the lawless, desiccated waste of Los Angeles, where Ray and Luz try to make their way. They prop up each other’s inadequacies and forgive each other’s crippling histories, but then they do something they should never do - they take on another mouth to feed, a third thirst. A toddling, runty, tow-headed girl, perhaps a little developmentally challenged, very apparently needs rescuing, and so they snatch her away.

“Away” turns out to be the leading edge of a dune sea, a hellish, inexorable, mobile environmental disaster, thousands of feet high, feeding on and exacerbating the desert Southwest. The little one becomes a pawn eventually in a con game, run by the charismatic chief of a group of fugitive vagabonds, who are even further beyond the arm of the law or society. She is the one negotiable chip, this little waif, in a bold, perhaps maniacal power play between grownups who serve her very ill.

And here we arrive at the tenor of Gold Fame Citrus: people are ready to use you for their own ends, particularly if those ends center on self-preservation. Characters launch ill-conceived gambits, or engage in cynical bluffs, or manipulate their way to murky ends - all this against a dystopian backdrop that promises no more than certain, agonizing death. But to the great credit of our esteemed author, these designs continue to show venal, suspicious, or rapacious human nature in high relief. Ms. Watkins has constructed a wasted framework for this all-too-human theater, a combination powerful and effective. It’s superb, impressive work.


Contact me