Odd, atmospheric, and enchanting: a story in which, disbelief duly suspended, one savors improbabilities along with haunting...
Things are strange out there on the fringes, as the always adventurous Can Xue’s latest novel illustrates.
There is magical realism aplenty in the pages of Can Xue’s beguiling story, but magical realism by way of Calvino, not García Márquez. The opening is a scene from a waking dream, in which a young girl named Liujin strains to make out what voices caught in rustling poplar leaves are saying. By the end of the book, by which time the reader has explored every corner of the quiet frontier town and its strange portals, the wind is still blowing, warm and portentous, threatening to become nightmare as Liujin thinks, “Something must be about to happen.” Indeed. Pebble Town is a place where packs of snow leopards think nothing about descending for a visit, a place where walls and floors are never as solid as they appear to be (“Liujin, there’s an abyss below you!”). Just so, a focal point of the town is a guesthouse that is really just a tent alongside a coal shed beneath a dizzying snowcapped mountain—details that may play on the author’s pseudonym, which means “dirty snow.” But then, Liujin wonders in passing, did the city’s best-known hotel, with its snow leopard caged in the lobby, even exist? There’s a hallucinatory quality to the enterprise as Liujin eventually comes into contact with the other dozen or so major players in the novel, among them her uncle, a bachelor janitor whose “heart swelled with erotic dreams” and whose stories intersect in tangential ways. Can Xue has remarked that all of her fiction is at heart autobiographical. This story is so layered with metaphor and mystery that one imagines it to be informed less by real-life circumstances, though, than an effort to elude the ever present censor, who is likely to be baffled by such things as creatures that may be rats or geckos but “were probably only shadows.”Odd, atmospheric, and enchanting: a story in which, disbelief duly suspended, one savors improbabilities along with haunting images and is left wanting more.
Pub Date: March 14, 2017
Page Count: 361
Publisher: Open Letter
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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.
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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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