A bizarre but delightful sendup of illogical arguments.

The Ugly

A Slovak tribal chief attends Harvard Law School in order to gain the skills to save his tribe in Boldizar’s debut satire.

Muzhduk the Ugli, the Fourth, the leader of a tribe in northeastern Siberia, triumphantly defends a challenge to his chieftainship by winning the Dull-Boulder Throw. But in order to solidify his leadership status, the 300-pound Slovak must climb a mountain that’s higher than those scaled by previous chiefs, including his father. Mount Baldhead in the Verkhoyansk Range appears to be ideal, but then a group of Americans shows up there, claiming that they’ve purchased it from the Russian government. Furthermore, an attorney with a law degree from Harvard University bamboozles Muzhduk and his father into signing over tribal land. Soon, Muzhduk is intent on applying to Harvard himself, seeing it as his metaphorical mountain; specifically, he wants to gain the proper vernacular to defeat the American lawyer at his own game. Despite a perfect LSAT score, he has trouble gaining admittance to the school, but he ultimately takes the place of another student, Peggy Roundtree, who gave up her spot. A concurrent plotline follows Muzhduk in Mali, a year or so later, searching for Peggy. It appears that some governments in Africa have declared Peggy a terrorist, and after rebels kidnap her, Muzhduk seeks to help her with his newfound weapon of words. Boldizar’s lampoons of legal arguments are largely successful even if the frequent classroom discussions don’t always make sense. For example, Muzhduk makes a point about a well-known 1994 lawsuit against McDonald’s by contrasting buying hot coffee with slavery. It is, however, amusing to watch a man who’s accustomed to settling disputes physically engage in a “word-throwing battle.” The novel’s humor carries into its occasional surreal moments, such as Muzhduk’s interactions with a small, blue-furred, and possibly imaginary bear named Pooh (which the Slovak says might be a possible copyright violation). The scenes set in Mali are often tense, as the rebels feel like a genuine threat. Translated Slovak curses are sometimes offensive but consistently hilarious, such as “May your mother recognize you in kebab meat.”

A bizarre but delightful sendup of illogical arguments.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-936767-47-2

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Brooklyn Arts Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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