A creep show that earns points for sheer bat-guano craziness.

LIES BEHIND THE WOODS

A chance encounter during a noon jog sets in motion a plot that is increasingly bizarre and bleak.

Two miles and 16 minutes into his jog on his 25th birthday, Steve Breiten is almost run down by a careening pickup truck. As it passes, he believes he sees the driver restraining a screaming woman. But he waits a week before reporting it to police. Imagine his surprise when, several years later, Tara, the woman from the truck, shows up at his office. She had, in fact, been abducted and, according to her, subjected to unspeakable acts by “some nut job.” But now she has come to say thanks and show her enthusiastic gratitude. “You did асt, and it ѕаvеd my lifе!” she explains. “OK, mауbе it wаѕ lаtе, but I’m аlivе nоw.” She asks to stay the night with him. Steve asks himself, “What does she really want?” and begins to suspect that something is not right with this woman. Ain’t that the truth, but any further synopsizing would come under the heading of major spoilers. To Cornish’s (Dark Obscurity, 2019) credit, the ensuing jaw-dropping revelations could scarcely be anticipated. Things get loopier and loopier until the gut punch of a climax sets up a sequel. The reader is asked to swallow a lot in this dark ride of a book. All characters carry heavy baggage—parental abandonment, physical abuse, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Cornish is also prone to dropping OMG moments without proper exposition, like when Steve tries his best not to succumb to Tara’s seductive advances. “Lеt’ѕ put аѕidе thаt I’ve hаd ѕеx with уоur mother,” he protests. Wait, what? (It’s explained a few pages later). One sex scene gets tangled in mixed metaphors (“He knew she wanted to dance....Thоѕе luscious fаrm-bred apples…now ѕрrеаd оut fоr him likе a banquet, he just hаd tо ѕtор and ѕаvоr her sweet cherries”). A more vigilant editor would have trimmed repetitive sentences and misspellings.

A creep show that earns points for sheer bat-guano craziness.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-578-59361-6

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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