After a few fun/creepy first chapters, the manipulated plot seems forced, obvious and lacking in suspense.

THE BOYFRIEND FROM HELL

As the title declares, Corman’s eighth novel (A Perfect Divorce, 2004, etc.) centers on a young New Yorker’s rocky relationship with her new boyfriend, who is either a jerk or Evil Incarnate.

At 24, Ronnie is already a successful freelance journalist, but her social life is in the doldrums. While researching an article on a satanic church in the city, she interviews Richard Smith, a historian who studies satanic worship. When she asks his opinion of Satanism, he offers only a vague view that since good exists, so might evil, but Richard is strikingly handsome and Ronnie is soon swept away by his debonair charms and sexual magnetism. After her article on the satanic church comes out, Ronnie receives a dead black cat and assumes the church’s cultish leader, Randall Cummings, sent it as a threat. Meanwhile, Richard, who travels frequently for his work, sees Ronnie whenever he is in town, but her friends sense there is something off about him. Then Richard’s editor offers Ronnie a book deal to write about satanic possession. While working on the book, Ronnie begins to have the disquieting experience of enhanced powers, winning a race and drawing an elaborate sketch while blacked out. After receiving a picture of a decapitated head, Ronnie goes to confront Randall Cummings. Again, she blacks out. Randall turns up dead, and she’s a suspect. She begins to see Satan’s face, first in dreams but then on the street. After interviewing a mental patient whose satanic lover looked a lot like Richard, she comes to believe she may be possessed. A lapsed Catholic, she turns to her childhood priest in the Bronx, who holds an exorcism. Ronnie is saved/cured, but the last we see of Richard, he is talking on his cell phone and smiling enigmatically.

After a few fun/creepy first chapters, the manipulated plot seems forced, obvious and lacking in suspense.

Pub Date: May 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-34979-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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