A welcome gathering of work by a writer always worth reading.


First of a two-volume collection of short fiction by Dubus (Dancing After Hours, 1996, etc.), a Chekhov-ian laureate of silences and secrets.

As Ann Beattie notes in her introduction to this volume, which gathers the collections Separate Flights (1975) and Adultery & Other Choices (1977), Dubus (1936-1999), a Catholic Louisianan so long resident in the Northeast that he is often thought of as a New England writer, was unusually capable of populating his work with believable women, “and it may be more unusual than I realize that he so consistently created and stayed so close to his female characters.” That much emerges from the short stories and novellas gathered here, though in the end the men in them often behave badly. In the title story, a writer on a leafy campus stuns his much-suffering wife with “sordid, drunken adultery”; she remains with him, her suffering continuing, while he continues his miscreant ways, and life goes on, awaiting further betrayals and disappointments. Many of the stories have a military setting, befitting Dubus’ service in the Marine Corps; in one, “Corporal of Artillery,” the title character re-enlists for reasons he himself doesn’t quite understand, then returns to a wife whom he barely seems to know, a woman who behaves “as though she were playing grown-up when here she was with three kids and not even old enough to vote yet.” When Dubus’ characters speak to each other, it is more often to speak past each other. For all that, Dubus finds an elegant sort of theology even in mutual incomprehension and bad behavior; in the meaningfully titled story “Adultery,” a former priest finds profound meaning in lovemaking: “Our bodies aren’t just meat then; they become statement too; they become spirit.” In such moments, Dubus reveals a kinship not with Raymond Carver, with whom he is often paired, but instead with Flannery O’Connor.

A welcome gathering of work by a writer always worth reading.

Pub Date: June 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-56792-616-3

Page Count: 478

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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

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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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