VAMPED

Sardonic and wistful at the same time.

Vampires rule the world, but they’ve been domesticated along the way in Sosnowski’s unnervingly funny second novel (after Rapture, 1996).

Years ago, blue-collar narrator Martin Kowalski founded the Benevolent Vampire Society, which specialized in rooting out murderers, rapists, and other undeserving humans. But the society’s good intentions were eventually swamped by those old vampiric primal urges. A swift campaign by Martin and others to “turn” the world—he got a job at a blood bank and put a little drop of himself into each bag—has by the time of the book (the future, that is) resulted in an almost-all-vampire population. Since the only remaining humans are a few bred on illegal-but-tolerated farms for wealthy vamps, the thrill of the hunt is pretty much gone; everyone lives on store-bought blood, which Martin heats up in his Mr. Plasma, buying no-longer-needed items like Count Chocula cereal on eBay. Martin, who is having an existential/mid-eternity crisis, reaches a spiritual crossroads when he comes across Isuzu, an orphaned little girl who’s escaped from a breeding farm. Intending at first to just toss her into the trunk and have a nice snack later, Martin ends up bringing Isuzu home and putting off killing her for so long that he ends up as a surrogate father. Sosnowski has a good time with his premise, loading the text with so many bad puns you can almost hear the drummer’s rim shot, but also figuring out the practicalities of an all-vampire world: “One of the fringe benefits of being a vampire was you always got the cheapest fares because you always flew the red eye. Now, the red eye’s all there is.” The author for the most part adroitly avoids the sentimental landmines inherent in his vampire-as-dad premise, and the narrative starts to lose focus only toward the end.

Sardonic and wistful at the same time.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-6253-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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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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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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