A perfect short exposé of Hockney’s life as seen through the eyes of an admiring novelist.

LIFE OF DAVID HOCKNEY

A fictionalized life of the gay British painter who came to define and embody California dreaming.

Many have tried to put into words the tumultuous life of the much-loved British David Hockney, but few have captured his essence. In this novel, Cusset (The Story of Jane, 2001, etc.) traces Hockney’s life from his first encounter with art as a child to his sexual awakening to the bursts of luck and opportunity that punctuated his career to his heartbreak, in so many senses of the word. Cusset paints a picture that, for those familiar with Hockney’s work and life, feels hyper-realistic. In fact, it’s often hard to draw the line between biography and novel—perhaps this is what gives the book its strength. “David knew that success didn’t just fall from the sky. In New York he had admired what in England would have been considered bad taste: the ease with which Americans knew how to sell themselves, without getting bogged down in false shame and feelings of guilt,” Cusset says through the omniscient narrator. The sentence summarizes Hockney’s understanding of the art world: one where personalities thrive and personal histories crumble, where taste dominates and timidity falters. So begins Hockney’s eccentric career as an explicitly gay artist living in the world; from London to San Francisco to Paris to Los Angeles, there isn’t a cosmopolitan city his work hasn’t touched. Cusset discusses with grace the heart-wrenching relationship with Peter Schlesinger—the primary male subject of most of Hockney's early- and midcareer paintings—that the artist watched dissolve. “Peter was sexier than Marilyn, sexier than the living doll in the song by Cliff Richard that David liked so much. A boy doll. David would have given his kingdom for a kiss.” Cusset’s style oozes with delicacy, pointedness, and gusto. She masters the short sentence, enlivening the narrative with the speed of Hockney’s rise to fame—a speed that comes to perfectly mirror his experience with the AIDS epidemic, friends dying too quickly all around him.

A perfect short exposé of Hockney’s life as seen through the eyes of an admiring novelist.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-983-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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