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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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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