ONE SWEET QUARREL

A woman and her two brothers come of age in early 20th-century America in this warm, perceptive second novel from the author of Rima in the Weeds (1990). In 1973, the oldest residents of Shelby, Mont., have gathered in the local grade school's multipurpose room to receive a ``tribute'' from an unctuous former citizen, television actor Michael Cage. Cage wants to write a screenplay about the world heavyweight boxing championship held between Jack Dempsey and Tommy Gibbons in Shelby back in 1923, but he'll need the oldsters' help if he's to do a creditable job; hence the tribute, though the senior citizens themselves have other plans for this event. Daisy Lou Malone takes advantage of the speechifying to recall her youth in turn-of-the-century Minnesota, when she dreamed of being a singer but first had to care for her ailing mother. While Daisy Lou waited for her mom to die, her older brother Carlton set out on his own career as an all-around hustler while her remaining sibling, Jerry, went off to homestead land outside Shelby. By the time Daisy Lou arrived in New York—changing her name to Amelia, recording a few demo records, and performing at churches—it was the 1920's, and her fluttery personality had become as outdated as her musical style. Things could have been worse, though: at least Amelia avoided Jerry's bitterly hard frontier existence, whose only possible redemption would come in the form of an oil well. After the oil boom had passed, prodding Shelby's desperate citizens to dream up the championship fight as a way to lure investment dollars, innocent Amelia decided to come for a visit. The fight changed her life so decisively that she never again left Shelby, but found herself, instead, sitting in the multipurpose room 50 years later, flanked by a scheming brother and an ex-husband, conscientiously preparing for her final song. A pleasurable dip into a long-lost time with its nearly extinct brand of Americans—accomplished, entertaining fiction.

Pub Date: March 16, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-016868-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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