More often, however, the pairings are only obfuscatory and puzzling; the collection’s scattered points of interest cannot...

TIME TIDINGS

GREETING THE 21ST CENTURY

Oddly surprised and invigorated by the discovery that “no anthology had focused on the theme of time in poetry,” Duffy has attempted to shore up the gap, gathering a collection of poems by 50 contemporary poets (English, Irish and Scottish), in which each was invited to submit his own favorite poem on the topic. This gives us 100 poems altogether, a reassuringly round number for what is, in fact, a very uneven collection. Such a result might have been predicted by the editor. The size of the abstraction is obviously too large: “Ever the Everest among concepts,” was how Merrill measured it in his poem “Time.” Here, the selected poems are so eclectic in their treatment of the theme that the juxtapositions, instead of stimulating, merely bewilder. Elegies and laments predominate, but they are made to cohabit with the eerie enthusiasms of Lawrence’s “New Year’s Night” and the low wit of John Agard’s “How Laughter Made the Clock Smile.” In her introduction Duffy seems resigned to the thought that her hodge-podge will not bear the stamp of any presiding intelligence, but believes this flaw more than compensated for by “the curiously catalytic process by which a poet’s choice would often reveal something new or concealed about their own work.” This is an interesting strategy if the editor can rely on the reader’s familiarity with each of the poet’s œuvre, but since most of these poets are not widely read—especially not on these shores—the gambit founders. For example, the relationship between Henry Graham’s “Mal” and his chosen poem (Rimbaud’s “Barbare”) is foggy at best. What Rimbaud’s poem has to do with Time is cloudier still. There are the occasional minor successes. To read Yeats’ hermetic quatrain “There” after the dizzying colloquialisms of Muldoon’s “As” gives the former poem a new jauntiness and unsuspected lilt.

More often, however, the pairings are only obfuscatory and puzzling; the collection’s scattered points of interest cannot redeem its wider failures.

Pub Date: April 17, 2000

ISBN: 0-85646-313-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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