An unusual bildungsroman that mostly transcends the limitations of its formats.

The Too-Brief Chronicle of Judah Lowe

In two linked novellas with strict word/character limits, Sanderson (Theatre/State Univ. of New York, Oswego; Gorilla Theater, 2003) playfully narrates the coming-of-age of a New Jersey high school student.

The work’s two sections originated as an Esquire magazine contest entry and a Twitter account. For the competition, Sanderson submitted 79/79/’79, a novella set in 1979 and composed of 79 numbered, titled chapters of 79 words each. He follows this with @1000thenovel, containing 1,000 tweets. Both share a protagonist—not the titular Judah but his best friend, Moe Tazwell, a brainy junior at McTierney High. Shifting among third-person, first-person, and first-person plural narration, the scattershot chapters nevertheless build a coherent picture of a set of students who slack off and show initiative in roughly equal measure. Moe plays the bass, works at an ice cream shop, and drinks; his friends study Latin, wear deerstalker hats, and write for the Alternative Literary Magazine. Various love interests come and go, with sex an ever present taunt. Judah and Moe set up a debate team and take home trophies. Meanwhile, Moe’s brother Taz turns delinquent, painting graffiti and making drug pipes. The 79/79/’79 chapters are more successful than the tweets, though both novellas involve sudden shifts, lacking the descriptive passages that function as transitions in most novels. The best chapter is “Magister Musicae,” a verse tribute to the music teacher. Stand-out tweets often showcase condensed metaphors, as in “Reading Kerouac…was like a cool primer in independence.” A pastoral interlude, when Moe visits a friend’s uncle’s farm in Virginia, provides a welcome contrast to the urban setting. Overall, there is perhaps a vague sense that the title—a nod to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao—and structure came first and a linguistically effusive but somewhat plot-light story was developed to fit. The 140-character cast of @1000thenovel (to match tweets’ 140 “characters”) requires inserting many irrelevant, one-dimensional figures. Moe himself, though, is well-realized: both emblematic of his time and an outlier, especially as he jets off to Paris instead of attending college.

An unusual bildungsroman that mostly transcends the limitations of its formats.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9861445-4-7

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Sagging Meniscus Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2015

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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