Genre-bending, hard to categorize, and teeming with life.

STILL LIFE WITH MEREDITH

An isolated woman writes her novel and awaits her roommate’s return.

Lewinson’s debut novella follows an unnamed narrator—a former art handler at a contemporary art museum—who spends her days in a storefront-turned-apartment with blacked-out windows. “I have not left this room for longer than I care to reveal to you,” she says. “I have found that isolation breeds productivity and I’m reluctant to mess with that.” As she waits for her roommate, Meredith, an up-and-coming artist, she does a few things: writes this novel, reads nonfiction, sits in a corner picking at the carpet, and obsesses over many things, including sex, Meredith, genital mutilation, Dutch still life paintings, and Marie Bonaparte’s quest for sexual fulfillment. Lewinson’s ability to observe is masterful and made only stronger by the novel’s static quality. About revisiting her old college books, she says now, “I can only see the highlighted text, the rest recedes into unimportance, and I am beholden to my youthful judgements.” Propelled by plotlessness, the novella becomes a bricolage of facts, fiction, history, literature, and art. The narrator returns endlessly to certain ideas and facts until she bends, changes, and rewrites them into something else entirely. Throughout the novel, she reimagines what happened to Marie Bonaparte’s clitoris—which was surgically moved three times—and how she met Meredith—at a museum, a summer camp, a class about Dutch realist painters—until the truth becomes almost entirely obscured, though Lewinson consistently proves the “truth” is less interesting than the way she explores concepts like gender, sexuality, and art. Endlessly inquisitive and wider in scope than length, the novella proves a worthy addition to the canon of messy, strange, and keen women.

Genre-bending, hard to categorize, and teeming with life.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-944853-69-3

Page Count: 102

Publisher: Outpost19

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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