Next book

USING LIFE

A fly-on-the-wall view of an Egypt few outsiders know and one that, in its insistence on unveiled expression, offers hope...

Alan Moore meets Nahgib Mafouz in this exuberant, subversive novel by Egyptian writer Naji—who was jailed for his troubles.

Bassam Bahgat is, he says, “a professional kiss-ass,” adding, “What else could you expect from an economics and political science major?” He’s not the only one: though narrating from the vantage point of an old man living in a time of worldly cataclysm, he recounts a whole generation forced to bow down in order to accommodate those in power. He’s landed a gig far from what he really knows how to do, and now he’s making a documentary film about a secret Cairo, one whose buildings themselves are instances of control and social engineering, one in which the entire city becomes a living creature, and not necessarily a friendly one at that. “If you’re just a little mouse of a man spinning inside that Great Wheel, you never get to see the big picture,” he reflects. “Whether you work or not, the Wheel of Production keeps on spinning, and the current carries you along.” Bassam’s co-conspirators are a mixed bunch of intellectuals and artists who labor under no particular illusions of freedom: “There’s nothing more difficult than making decisions in Cairo,” he says, “since it’s Cairo that usually makes decisions for you.” For his unadorned view of modern life in the city, which seems strikingly like life in any other city, Naji was tried and imprisoned on the Socratic charge of “harming public morals,” and to be sure there are plenty of moments involving various fluids and physical contortions. Mostly, though, the rebellion that bursts forth from this book, parts of which are told in graphic form, lies in its subtle pokes at pious Islam, its marveling at the hidden powers of generations of suppressed Egyptian women, and its sometimes-cynical view of an ancient nation trying to remake itself.

A fly-on-the-wall view of an Egypt few outsiders know and one that, in its insistence on unveiled expression, offers hope for a more democratic future.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4773-1480-7

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 34


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

Next book

A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 34


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Categories:
Next book

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Categories:
Close Quickview