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The Last Projector

A loopy, appealing mix of popular culture and thoroughly crazy people.

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Keaton (Pig Iron, 2015, etc.) delivers a free-wheeling novel about a porn director, two obsessive young lovers, and a host of other misfit characters.

Forty-seven-year-old Larry, readers learn early on, has been trying for years to get “anyone with clout to read one of his ‘real’ scripts.” But although he has dreams of making a mainstream film, his days as a director of hard-core pornography are filled with overly tattooed porn stars and sleazy producers. Meanwhile, young Billy and Bully love movies and generally do as they please; they become obsessed with a policeman they dub “Bigbeep” (they “followed him home to get his address, followed him back to work to fight crime or whatever”) and witness a bizarre scene involving a pizza deliveryman and a large metal collar. They soon become infatuated with the idea of making their own collar (with a bomb in it) and delve into the world of cinema, searching for any movie that might have a similar contraption. Along the way, other characters kill dogs based on a secret quota, consider the philosopher Marshall McLuhan during an MRI, and execute a gum-chewing security guard. If this array of fantastical excitement sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Keaton works in a fast and loose style, so readers seeking a straightforward narrative devoid of surprises should steer clear. However, those who are excited by cult-movie references (such as Night of the Hunter), tattoos of all sorts, and a world in which authority figures and those looking to subvert them run amok will find this an inviting read. Although it lacks the more polished psychotic insanity of classics such as Stephen Wright’s Going Native (1994), the novel traffics in a similar world of degenerate modern culture. This world of wild fiction is also rapidly paced and loaded with humor, as when Larry fights a senior citizen and comments, “Damn, old man fights like a puma. A puma in a wheelchair anyway.”

A loopy, appealing mix of popular culture and thoroughly crazy people.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-940885-14-8

Page Count: 548

Publisher: Broken River Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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