THE BROOM OF THE SYSTEM

A NOVEL

This unusual debut, the first novel to be published simultaneously in hard-cover and as a paperback in Penguin's "Contemporary American Fiction" series, suffers from a severe case of manic impressiveness. Wallace, a recent Amherst grad, is something of a puerile Pynchon, a discount Don DeLillo, and even a bit of an original. Brimming with subplots, stories within stories, countless one-liners, and a cast of characters worthy of some sort of postmodern Dickens, this bulky fiction, when it isn't plain tedious, seems to he a big inside-joke. Almost every male in the book went to Amherst, from Rich Vigorous (class of '69), the head of Frequent and Vigorous Publishers, to Andrew Sealander "Wang-Dang" Lang (class of '82), a former frat boy and campus swell, now married to Mindy Metalman, a "Playboy-Playmatish JAP from Scarsdale," whom Wanger met one night on a roll to Holyoke. But that doesn't begin to explain how Vigorous, with his abnormally small penis, and the strapping preppy meet in Amherst in 1990, the year in which most of this self-consciously strange book takes place. The connection between them, and between just about everyone else here, from sexy Candy Mandible to cruel Stonecipher Beadsman III, is the former's roommate and the latter's daughter, Leonore Beadsman, an overeducated switchboard operator at the Bombardini Building in Cleveland, Ohio. That's not far from the corporate headquarters of Stonecipheco, the family-owned baby-food company in fierce competition with Gerber's. Also nearby is the nursing home from which Leonore's great-grandmother, a former student of Wittgenstein (that "mad crackpot genius"), has strangely disappeared, thus setting into motion the hyperactive narrative. Jokes about fiction by "a nastily troubled little collegiate mind" should give readers further reason to pause. Wallace dabbles in big ideas, with too many pseudo-Wittgensteinian pauses ("'. . . .'") and much callow satire on consumer/evangelical America. Despite flashes of real genius, it's a heady Animal House vision.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 1986

ISBN: 0142002429

Page Count: 442

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1986

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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