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

The Last Projector

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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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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