A lighthearted novel with some interesting tidbits about chemistry and attraction and a clever criticism of how technology...

Unmatched

A novel about the complexities of relationships, the nature of romantic chemistry and dating in the digital age.

At the center of Diersen’s debut novel is Wisconsin-based advice columnist Roxanne Browne, who dispenses her wisdom via a syndicated column. One day, Roxanne receives a letter asking for her advice regarding online dating. Unversed in the world of Internet relationships, she decides to delve headfirst into investigating that world—particularly one site, thematchcafe.com, which distinguishes itself by claiming to use a science-based system to “match members based on common values and other key components of compatibility.” Roxanne decides to test its science via a simple plan: Both she and her beloved husband, Walker, will join the site, fill out personality surveys, then wait to be paired as a match. All does not go according to plan, however; she and Walker, happily married and with excellent chemistry, are not deemed a compatible pair—a result that launches an even deeper investigation into the site’s method of calculating compatibility. Roxanne recruits Walker to help; he’ll go on blind dates with several women the site has deemed to be good matches for him, then report on their actual, in-person compatibility. What ensues are several hilarious dates, lots of critical analysis and even more uncertainty about what makes two people the perfect pair. Within an amusing framework, Diersen’s entertaining book explores some heavy, important themes: commitment in relationships, different types of attraction, and the biological and psychological factors behind chemistry. Diersen includes many rich, well-developed, likable characters, including Alethia Dornquast, Roxanne’s narcissistic friend with an overinflated ego, and Bunny and Mack, her loving if cartoonish parents who are compared to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. However, she also includes the tales of several characters not directly related to the book’s plot, and the lengths of those stories and their level of detail often distract from the novel’s actual narrative. For example, Chapter 6 features an in-depth story about Renee, a former client of Roxanne’s, and her abusive relationship, which lasts for more than 10 pages but has no direct connection to the online-dating plot. More focus on the actual characters involved in investigating thematchcafe.com would serve to make the already engaging plot more compelling.

A lighthearted novel with some interesting tidbits about chemistry and attraction and a clever criticism of how technology can connect yet disconnect two people.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615663777

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Blue Gentian Books

Review Posted Online: July 9, 2014

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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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