Dark, subversive and disquieting fiction for readers ready to go all the way down.

BURNT TONGUES

Twenty stories of embattled brothers and twisted sisters hand-selected by Palahniuk and two comrades from his online community The Cult.

Transgressive fiction is a much broader label than many readers realize, encompassing everything from Hubert Selby Jr.’s gritty Last Exit to Brooklyn to Alissa Nutting’s much-debated Tampa. Palahniuk (Doomed, 2013, etc.) is arguably the most capable modern practitioner of the style and certainly its most visible champion. “We return to troubling films and books because they don’t pander to us—their style and subject matter challenge, but to embrace them is to win something worth having for the rest of our lives,” he proclaims. “The difficult, the new and novel establish their own authority.” That said, these creative endeavors remain mostly male and uniquely grotesque, inhabiting their own peculiar orbit in the universe of American lit. Many are about self-harm, resembling some of the stories—like the infamous nausea-inducing “Guts,” for example—from Palahniuk’s Haunted (2005). In Neil Krolicki’s “Live This Down,” a clique of teenage girls find themselves humiliated after a botched suicide attempt. There’s also the disgruntled retail clerk in Richard Lemmer’s “Ingredients,” scarred inside and out after a dare goes wrong. Other stories, including Matt Egan’s “A Vodka Kind of Girl” and Brandon Tietz’s “Dietary,” explore the fear and loathing between women and body image. Almost always there’s a tendency to examine the dichotomy between the damage we do to our bodies and the strange secrecy of our inner monologues. That’s certainly true in Phil Jourdan’s “Mind and Soldier,” about a disabled vet, and Keith Buie’s “The Routine,” recounting the sins of an overworked graveyard shift pharmacist. Some stories are subtle, like Chris Lewis Carter’s “Charlie,” recounting the cycle of animal abuse. Others are not—see the casual zoophilia of Brien Piechos’ “Heavier Petting” and the collection’s closer, “Zombie Whorehouse” by Daniel W. Broallt. No, it’s not a metaphor.

Dark, subversive and disquieting fiction for readers ready to go all the way down.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60542-734-8

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Medallion Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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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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