Dark Tinseltown satire with more rage than laughs.


In this debut novel from screenwriter Ver Wiel, a burnt-out screenwriter plunges into the bizarro world of his own subconscious after ingesting a potent combination of over-the-counter sleep aids.

Estranged from his unfaithful movie-star wife and fixated on the woman he should have married, writer Morgan Beale holes up in a Sunset Strip hotel room ostensibly to work on the movie script of a popular comic novel called The Chihuahua in the Blue Prada Bag. It is not going well. Hating himself almost as much as he hates the vapid Hollywood industry machine that made him a success, he numbs himself nightly with “the handshake,” a mixture of pills and red wine. It is during one bender that he “wakes up” to find himself in the middle of a nightmarish movie shoot. Literally stuck to his typewriter, the alienated 44-year-old watches helplessly as the novelist whose work he is adapting gets thrown into a fathomless pit by Armani-clad producer chimps from Hell. Luckily, Morgan is also reunited with his long-dead mentor Luke, a fellow scribe who has been transformed into a brave little Chihuahua. He and Luke team up with a group of ethnically diverse dwarves to battle the evil forces of modern celebrity-obsessed consumerist society. Really. In Morgan’s mind, these offenders include brainless morning talk-show hosts, talent-challenged reality-show wannabes, right-wingers and, of course, the titular java giant. During the wacky free-for-all (a robot, FEMA trucks and his wife all make appearances), he reminisces about his work and life, and especially the tragic lack of creativity in the movie business, while hoping for another chance. That is, if he ever wakes up. Ver Wiel’s debut burns with the righteous anger of a disillusioned insider; it would have benefited from more character development and a lighter hand.

Dark Tinseltown satire with more rage than laughs.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-55970-868-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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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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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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