Unorthodox, irreverent, and diverting tales.

ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE STEALING LOOSE CHANGE FROM MY POCKETS WHILE I SLEEP

Atkinson (Apocalypse All the Time, 2017, etc.) offers a collection of flash-fiction about subjects ranging from an invasion of aerobic dancers to a tyrannosaur-sized human looking for living space.

Each of the absurdist tales here drops its main characters into bizarre, often surreal situations, with most clocking in at less than two pages in length. In one, the narrator refuses to exit a Ferris wheel at the “Scotchtoberfest,” all to avoid Henry Kissinger, who wants to know what happened to his 1987 Chevy convertible. Similarly weird predicaments abound in other tales—a city’s residents uses price comparison and couponing to find a new mayor, a civilization of tiny elves turns up in an old oatmeal container, or a cellophane-wrapped Christmas ham is, sadly, also made of cellophane and packing tape. Historical figures and celebrities also populate the book, including Benjamin Franklin on a cocaine high and in need of gas money, and Tom Cruise, who vainly tries sparking discussions on controversial matters, such as Scientology, with an apathetic new neighbor. Pop-culture references are generally to decades-old TV shows and movies, but Atkinson effectively links them to more topical concerns, such as genetically modified foods. He also tackles air travel and, repeatedly, dentists and tooth care. The majority of the stories’ titles are inordinately long and sometimes irrelevant, but typically hilarious, such as “Linseed Oil is Not an Effective Sunblock Ointment Even If You Mix it With Two Parts Crisco and Three Parts Heavy Water Beforehand, James Madison’s Amateur Home Hobbyist Chemistry Thesis Notwithstanding.” Even at its most preposterous, though, Atkinson’s prose is sharp: “Ten thousand pairs of shoes sitting alone in a square? Of course, elephants were going to come in and steal them. What else?” And despite the stories’ brevity, readers won’t feel shortchanged, as there are well over 100 of them.

Unorthodox, irreverent, and diverting tales.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-942856-28-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Literary Wanderlust

Review Posted Online: June 14, 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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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