edited by Bill Henderson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 30, 2017
Now in its fifth decade, Henderson’s Pushcart volumes are an invaluable record of what’s been happening in America’s more or...
Another year, another brick of a book, and the Pushcart Prize annual anthology marches on.
If you live long enough, the literary stars you grew up with start to drop, driven, as Homer says, like leaves before the wind. Meanwhile, other worthy heirs will emerge as if from nowhere—or West Virginia, or some writing program in Alaska or even Iowa. So it is with publisher (and himself estimable writer, as witness his 2000 memoir, Tower: Faith, Vertigo, and Amateur Construction) Henderson’s choice of nominated, vetted, adjudged, and now anthologized pieces from last year’s harvest of small press publications. In some instances, as with the late and lamented Brian Doyle, it is the writer who has passed (in Doyle’s case, leaving a lovely, impressionistic memory of Memorial Day parades gone by); in others, it is the subject, as with a profile by George Saunders—who has otherwise had a very good year—of the recently departed James Salter, or more precisely his sentences (“It’s a tiny move, a small improvement, but that level of care enacted over the course of an entire work is, for me, the essence of James Salter’s genius”—grasp that sentiment, and you can save an awful lot of money getting an MFA). The fiction writers and poets, alive and dead and perhaps somewhere in between, turn in the usual mixed lot; the already well-known Rachel Cusk delivers a little slice of hell with “Freedom,” a vignette in which a beauty salon becomes the locus of suburban mayhem, while the young poet Saeed Jones turns in an even more economical vignette, “Elegy with Grown Folks’ Music,” that shows just what can happen when the—yes, recently departed—singer Prince gets into one’s mom’s ear canal, if one’s mom is so inclined (“What is this nasty song and where did she learn / to dance like that”). Sometimes dazzling, sometimes so-so, every piece in the book is worth a look.Now in its fifth decade, Henderson’s Pushcart volumes are an invaluable record of what’s been happening in America’s more or less official literary culture. Hits, misses, and all, this entry is no exception.
Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2017
Page Count: 600
Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.
Pub Date: July 11, 1960
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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