ALTMANN'S TONGUE

STORIES AND A NOVELLA

Generally speaking, the shorter stories are clever and the longer ones less so—with the exception of a polished novella—in this grisly debut collection by a Gordon Lish acolyte. When Evenson writes brief stories, they have the crisp, tight feeling of Jonis Agee's best work, with a sadistic edge. Because these are so quick, their titles make them self-explanatory. ``Killing Cats'' is narrated by a man who has been asked to drive two friends so that they can do just that. A character in the title piece urges the narrator to eat the tongue of a man he has killed. ``The Abbreviated and Tragical History of The Auschwitz Barber'' does not even occupy an entire page, yet tells just the story promised by its title. The longer stories are equally gruesome, but without that punchy delivery they feel more like drawn-out jokes, and Evenson's habit of coy concealment, while successful in the shorter pieces, grates. Several tales apparently deal with the same characters, although they are so uniformly brutal that it is hard to tell. In ``The Blank'' a man named Thorne has closed himself in his room and passes notes to men on the outside, including Bosephus. Bosephus is still watching and waiting in ``A Slow Death'' and also appears in ``Extermination.'' Just showing up is not enough, however, and attention wanes as Bosephus waits while occasionally killing some animals. The novella ``The Sanza Affair'' is in many senses the most structured work here, and it is also the best. A police detective named Sanza has been killed while investigating a case, which has been passed on to an inspector named Lund. Lund finds the case as impenetrable as Sanza did, and is soon making connections between Sanza's death and his work. This subverts traditional mystery-writing techniques while still maintaining suspense. Good and bad bits from someone who has trouble recognizing when enough is enough.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-42912-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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