An enjoyable memoir that will likely give readers goose bumps.

VOODOO DAYS AT LA CASA FABULOSA

AN UNCONVENTIONAL MEMOIR

A collection of real-life spooky tales of an old Kentucky neighborhood.

You know that a collection of paranormal tales is doing its job when you become just the tiniest bit reluctant to read it after dark. Technically, food writer Dominé’s (True Ghost Stories and Eerie Legends from America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood, 2014, etc.) memoir is more ghost-suggestive than ghost-specific—that is, no actual apparitions appear. Still, it may send tingles up readers’ spines. La Casa Fabulosa is the name that Dominé gave to a six-bedroom, three-story Victorian fixer-upper; he and his boyfriend moved into it in 1999. Located in a slowly gentrifying area of Louisville, his new home offered all sorts of fanciful period touches, including intertwining pillars and dragonlike gargoyles. It also had pictures that spontaneously fell from the walls and unexplained sounds of footsteps or an occasional moan. Dominé mostly opts for a rational view of the spooky goings-on—an old house settling or an electrical mishap caused by ancient wiring. But he still investigated the phenomena in ways that may seem foolhardy to readers who don’t like wandering alone in big, old houses. Soon, he was exploring the other oddities that abounded in his colorful neighborhood. The author eventually discovered the legend of the Witches’ Tree and met transient Romani people, drug addicts, cross-dressers, sewer-dwelling hoboes, a mysterious character called the Stick Witch, and an elusive voodoo queen. Dominé knows how to string readers along; he typically starts with something heard happening somewhere else: “One night, a strange metallic clanging and rattling woke me from a deep sleep around half past three. Ghosts?” The book’s biggest flaw, though, is that he doesn’t know when to stop. After the umpteenth event, readers may think that Dominé should have simply assumed that something “unexplained” was actually something mundane. Still, the author does so much so well that most readers won’t mind. Consider how much information (and tone) he packs into just one sentence: “I had read about documented cases of weirdness where strange things, including coal, frogs and strips of meat—such as during the famous ‘Kentucky Meat Shower’ of March 3, 1876—had fallen from the sky, and I now wondered if Widmer House was spitting things at me to get my attention.”

An enjoyable memoir that will likely give readers goose bumps.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-73466-7

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Myrtle & LaMere

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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