by Burt Harris ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 25, 2010
An octogenarian recalls his life in a collection of anecdotes.
Harris writes “for pleasure and for the occasional shock of revelation when my writing uncovers a personal secret I’ve been keeping from myself.” It is both this humor and catharsis that punctuate many of the 100-plus stories spanning the author’s eight decades. The writings are medicinal within the backdrop of Harris’ psychiatric journeys, but the passing of his psychiatrist impels a different, if not cheaper, remedy. What better way to get relief than cutting your income in half because you no longer have to financially support your doctor? These occasionally self-deprecating tales are semi-chronological, but they are also sometimes more like disorganized ramblings that, overall, seem to have little coherence or identity. The grab bag of yarns does well on the level of individual stories, depending mostly on an occasional quick wit or clever observation. The speculation on the meaning of a mother mashing her son’s middle finger in the car door is irreverent and funny. The theory that everyone needs a nemesis is certainly made more interesting by the tenant Marbo, a man whose health actually improves when he is once again able to regularly argue with someone. And most readers (probably men) will be able to relate to the counsel of relationship love tests or the futility of arguing with your wife, no matter how high the temperature climbs. These stabs for humor or philosophy, however, endure two very evident shortcomings. One is that they are too few and far between. There is certainly an accumulation of living in 80+ years, but the author’s experiences aren’t overly exciting or compelling. Part of this problem is in the writer’s identity. Readers learn that Harris wrote some pieces for the San Francisco Chronicle, but his renown ends there. The other shortcoming is the medium. It could very well be that Harris is a great storyteller, but writing is simply a poor conveyance. The reader might get the sense that people named Old Dutch, Horse-Face Horace or Eye-Ball Brown are more compelling or funny in the oral tradition of storytelling. Perhaps the stories are just more in the vein of, “You had to be there.” An often-aimless collection more suited to a different medium.
Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2010
Page Count: 304
Publisher: VBW Publishing
Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2011
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
Share your opinion of this book
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
Share your opinion of this book
More About This Book
by J.D. Salinger ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 15, 1951
A strict report, worthy of sympathy.
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
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951
Share your opinion of this book
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!