Assured, often lyrical and true to the world of the star-maker machinery behind the popular song. A lively complement to...

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EVENING’S EMPIRE

Satisfying, near-epic tale of a British rock band, from the fresh young faces of the ’60s to the melting-cheese faces of today.

For his latest fictional foray into the entertainment biz (New Bedlam, 2007, etc.), MTV vice president Flanagan takes as his narrator/protagonist Jack Flynn, a born rock ’n’ roll manager who is therefore destined always to be a disappointment to his pious Irish parents. Especially when the budding young solicitor is disbarred after a drug arrest, a bum rap that puts the members of The Ravons forevermore in his debt. (He pocketed their dope.) These young British rockers are, of course, spoiled children with enormous appetites for sex and drugs; they’re also on a mission to conquer the world. Relating his tale in a bittersweet voice from the vantage of the present, meaning that he is now in his late 60s, Jack charts The Ravons’ rise and eventual fall; their demise, naturally, is a sordid matter of money, jealousy and publishing rights. Flanagan is note-perfect, particularly on the small details of life back in the day: “We forget now that airplanes, restaurants, movie theaters, taxis, offices and homes were all full of smoke then. There were ashtrays in every armrest.” The Ravons are one- or two-hit wonders, and they break up a third of the way into the narrative, but there’s much more to the story—many more opportunities, that is, for egos to swell, tempers to flare and adenoids to trill. In the end, Jack pulls off the near-impossible, reuniting The Ravons for a world tour that has all the earmarks of a Spinal Tap outing. Suffice it to say that in the end he learns once again that no good deed goes unpunished.

Assured, often lyrical and true to the world of the star-maker machinery behind the popular song. A lively complement to Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, Mark Hudson’s The Music in My Head and Laurence Gonzales’s Jambeaux.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4391-4845-7

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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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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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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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