GALILEE

Though its ghoul and demon quotient is comparatively low, this lavishly campy creeper has a legitimate claim to the title of Weirdest Book Yet by the accomplished author of such genre classics as The Books of Blood (1988) and The Damnation Game (1987). John O’Hara, William Faulkner, and Barbara Cartland might have spent a lost weekend collaborating on this feverish tale of two feuding families whose destinies are catastrophically intertwined. Its narrator—who will attempt a book about his blighted polyglot clan—is Edmund Barbarossa, the crippled stepson of a mysteriously ageless beautiful black woman, Cesaria (who has the power to “raise stones” and “send her image wherever she wants to”), for whom a smitten Thomas Jefferson built a magnificent mansion on the North Carolina coast. Edmund’s quest for information (which often takes the forms of dreams and fantasies) uncovers a wildly melodramatic history begun in presumably biblical times in the vicinity of the Middle Eastern city of Samarkand; an old wrong that dates from the Civil War and must of course be avenged; and a most unwise misalliance between the Barbarossas (“something more than human stock”) and the Gearys, an agreeably malicious cross between the Kennedys of Massachusetts and the Compsons of Yoknapatawpha County. The Gearys are plagued by every sexual and conjugal problem known to man and woman, but what really ticks them off is the irresistible (to their women) animal magnetism of Cesaria’s Heathcliff-like son Galilee, a brooding sex machine whose services to womankind are subsumed in—believe this or not—what appears to be a Christ parallel. Barker’s tongue pokes visibly out of his cheek now and then, in a black comedy of miscegenation and its discontents that has to be a sendup of both the Harlequin romance and the American Southern Gothic novel. Overheated and intermittently risible, but the thing is entertaining: the kind of book for which hammocks were invented—not to mention double boilermakers. ($150,000 ad/promo; author tour; TV satellite tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-06-017947-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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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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