by André Aciman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 3, 2017
An eminently adult look at desire and attachment, with all the usual regrets and then some—but also with the knowledge that...
Love among the ruins—and with Ethan Frome, tennis, martinis, and Starbucks on the set as well.
As often in his fiction, Aciman (Harvard Square, 2013, etc.) immerses readers in a milieu that is achingly sensuous—and sensual, too—with not much regard for pedestrian ideas of what constitutes whatever normal behavior is supposed to be. Even so, his characters are often beset by moral agony over the choices they make in following their hearts. In the case of Paul, a definitively sensitive man of fleetingly passing years, just about everything is a Proustian madeleine: Greek and Latin, the glint of Mediterranean sunlight, “the cooling scent of coffee from the roasting mill that seemed to welcome me no differently now than when I ran errands with my mother.” Then there is music, so elegantly alluded to in the title, and the memories of men and women who have fallen in his path and bed and sometimes imparted wisdom along the way; as an early object of desire says, knowingly, “It could be life or it could be a strip of wood that refuses to bend as it should.” Paul bends easily in his pursuits, broadly catholic in his affinities. Aciman’s portrait of him and his world is thoughtful, sympathetic, and never prurient; Paul is very much, as a friend of his remarks, like Sicily in having many identities and “all manner of names, when in fact one, and one only, is good enough.” He is not at all reprehensible, yet he is not blameless, either; Paul’s quest for self-awareness, to say nothing of his quest for pleasure, carries plenty of collateral damage. Most of it he bears himself, though; as he says, with knowing resignation, “I think everyone is wounded in their sex…I can’t think of one person who isn’t.”An eminently adult look at desire and attachment, with all the usual regrets and then some—but also with the knowledge that such regret “is easy enough to live down.”
Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016
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by Rattawut Lapcharoensap ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 2005
A newcomer to watch: fresh, funny, and tough.
Seven stories, including a couple of prizewinners, from an exuberantly talented young Thai-American writer.
In the poignant title story, a young man accompanies his mother to Kok Lukmak, the last in the chain of Andaman Islands—where the two can behave like “farangs,” or foreigners, for once. It’s his last summer before college, her last before losing her eyesight. As he adjusts to his unsentimental mother’s acceptance of her fate, they make tentative steps toward the future. “Farangs,” included in Best New American Voices 2005 (p. 711), is about a flirtation between a Thai teenager who keeps a pet pig named Clint Eastwood and an American girl who wanders around in a bikini. His mother, who runs a motel after having been deserted by the boy’s American father, warns him about “bonking” one of the guests. “Draft Day” concerns a relieved but guilty young man whose father has bribed him out of the draft, and in “Don’t Let Me Die in This Place,” a bitter grandfather has moved from the States to Bangkok to live with his son, his Thai daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. The grandfather’s grudging adjustment to the move and to his loss of autonomy (from a stroke) is accelerated by a visit to a carnival, where he urges the whole family into a game of bumper cars. The longest story, “Cockfighter,” is an astonishing coming-of-ager about feisty Ladda, 15, who watches as her father, once the best cockfighter in town, loses his status, money, and dignity to Little Jui, 16, a meth addict whose father is the local crime boss. Even Ladda is in danger, as Little Jui’s bodyguards try to abduct her. Her mother tells Ladda a family secret about her father’s failure of courage in fighting Big Jui to save his own sister’s honor. By the time Little Jui has had her father beaten and his ear cut off, Ladda has begun to realize how she must fend for herself.A newcomer to watch: fresh, funny, and tough.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2005
Page Count: 224
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004
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by Russell Banks ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 12, 2013
Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.
One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.
Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013
Page Count: 304
Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2013
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013
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