DREAMING OF FISH

& OTHER APOCALYPTIC STORIES OF FOREBODING AND GRACE

Though its reach may sometimes exceed its grasp, this collection is never less than daring and ambitious.

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A volume of short stories explores dark spiritual territory, examining themes of destruction on both a personal and global scale. 

In the poignant and heartbreaking “Dreaming of Fish,” a man trying to come to terms with a terminal brain tumor makes one last journey to the mountains where he and his wife have found so much joy. “Mirror Mirror” is a bit more abstract, about a man working in a frame shop who becomes obsessed with a woman’s painting, eventually trying to lose himself in the work’s world. A few tales in, the scope of the stories begins to expand. “In Its Luster” follows a schoolboy as he falls in love with a classmate, an experience reflected in scenes around the world, from an Iraqi astrophysicist to a musician who tunes his guitar. “Nolo Contendere” shows a young man developing into a serial killer, waiting with a small arsenal to shock his small town. “Gathering Algorithms” and “Which Was Once” take the apocalypse quite literally. The former is the most eerie, portraying an increasingly digital world that causes trees to grow out of control and uproot, resulting in massive devastation. The latter, a blow-by-blow account of an Armageddon where fascism increases in reaction to disasters and human hypocrisy accelerates the planet’s doom, is all plot and no characterization. The final three are more personal, ending with the transmigration of the soul of a female boar into a newborn child. Frode’s (One Times One, 2016, etc.) wild imagination is on full display here as he tries to connect these intriguing stories with the ideas of artists and thinkers like Ramana Maharshi, T.S. Eliot, and Russell Hoban by presenting quotes from their works by way of introduction. In this bold assemblage, the author’s prose can be thick, as in “Scree” when he describes a character’s outpouring of secret thoughts: “The extreme cognitive myopia under which he is now struggling is causing him to utter words and thoughts that have always fallen mute between the integers and symbols of his formulae.”

Though its reach may sometimes exceed its grasp, this collection is never less than daring and ambitious.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-359-22139-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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