SACRAMENT

Another ambitious and challenging dark fantasy from the popular author (Imajica, 1991; Everville, 1994, etc.) and filmmaker (Hellraiser), who is almost single-handedly elevating supernatural fiction to new levels of both literacy and intensity. Barker begins in characteristic fever-pitch fashion, with a horrific extended tableau set in the frozen wasteland of Canada's Hudson Bay, where famed wildlife photographer Will Rabjohns is mauled and nearly killed by a polar bear. Sunk in a coma, Will dreamily relives his early years in England: the death of his much- loved (and favored) older brother, his lonely childhood in a small English village, and his fateful and formative encounter with a pair of otherworldly recluses, Jacob Steep and Rosa McGee. Jacob, a self-styled ``Death's Agent'' committed to changing the shape of the world by destroying creatures that are ``the last of their kind,'' and Rosa, a kind of lamia who lures men to sex and to death, came to be accepted by the incipiently psychic Will as ``his connection to something bigger than the life he'd been leading.'' Recovered now from his bear wounds, Will returns to his home in an increasingly moribund San Francisco: He is gay, and he finds ever more friends and lovers dying. Then, in a provocative imaginative leap, he perceives that the destruction of animal species and the wholesale slaughter inflicted by the AIDS pandemic are akin and may spring from the same source—so he returns to England, seeking a reunion with Steep and McGee and the meaning of the riddle with which Jacob had encouraged Will's fascination with dying things: ``Living and dying, we feed the fire.'' By turns suspenseful, intellectually exciting, wildly melodramatic, turgid, and bombastic, Barker's novel is charged—in its complex development and surprising resolution—with very real, very human emotion. A weirdly absorbing and entertaining tale that offers more disturbing delights from one of our most inventive and risk-taking writers. ($175,000 ad/promo; author tour; TV and radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: July 31, 1996

ISBN: 0-06-017949-X

Page Count: 464

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1996

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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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