A clever and kinky theatrical romp with a big heart.

MIDSUMMER'S BOTTOM

In this fantasy novel, a disastrous theater troupe specializes in Shakespeare.

In Limerick, Ireland, the Midsummer Players have been presenting Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream for 19 years. Director Terence Devlin hopes that the upcoming 20th anniversary performance will be the one that garners the hardworking, though unevenly talented, company some renown. The Players, however, don’t realize that every fey character mentioned in the famous work is obligated to attend, thanks to a devious bargain with Shakespeare himself. And among the countless productions the fey King Oberon and Queen Titania have witnessed, Devlin’s is one of the worst. Enter the real fairy Puck, who’s come via portal to the mortal world to find a mischief-maker who can infiltrate the Players and halt the show. Del Chapman, who’s just unleashed a computer virus on his employer and made his getaway in a stolen BMW, is stunned when Puck appears in the passenger seat. After causing a car crash to prove his powers, Puck explains to Del that the fairy can’t directly interfere with the Players. Despite misgivings about his acting abilities, Del agrees to ingratiate himself with the troupe and derail the performance. Of course, this chaos agent doesn’t anticipate the long-brewing complications among the actors. In this ribald fantasy, Dash (An Other Place, 2016, etc.) gifts fans of the Bard a nuanced comedy that comments heavily on the travails of monogamy. Almost all of the Players are dysfunctional couples, including Devlin and his middle-aged wife, Anna; Felix Hill and Nuala Shay; and Don Magill and Ingmar Van Dorslaer. Rising star—and Devlin’s secret lover—Kate Pummel and shy banker Diarmid Garrigan are wild cards with whom Del and Puck cause mayhem. The author spices events further by sending Diarmid to the fey realm, where nudity is unremarkable. He laments to Titania and Oberon: “In the human sphere, bodies have different meanings. There is sex in that land, and one is always aware of it.” A duality emerges in the novel, speaking both to the benefits of unfettered sex and the frustration at mortals’ preoccupation with the act.

A clever and kinky theatrical romp with a big heart.

Pub Date: June 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71720-021-1

Page Count: 458

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 28, 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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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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