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

DREAMING OF FISH

& OTHER APOCALYPTIC STORIES OF FOREBODING AND GRACE

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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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