A captivating postmodern murder story.

E.I.E.

A cerebral drifter makes sense out of the madness in his life in this debut novel.

Robert Robillard, a 23-year-old self-styled artist whose mind moves a mile a minute, is considering suicide but decides to just leave Los Angeles instead. He begins a metaphysical journey around the American Southwest, pondering such heady topics as life, death, morality, and existence while experimenting with a few trespasses against the laws of God and humanity. He gets caught stealing and is forced to murder his way out of the situation, only to be filled with intense remorse and fear over the deaths of the two people he’s killed: “I was now a murderer and it would forever weigh and sit and hang over who I was and who I was to be.” Robillard’s ruminations on the nature of freedom and expression—which were previously largely philosophical exercises—take on a new urgency as he seeks to escape punishment for his crimes and settle his affairs before fleeing to Montreal to live under a new identity. To do so, he’ll have to make peace with the person his actions have forced him to become—and escape the vengeance of the father of his victims. Robillard narrates the book in an ellipses-laden, Joycean stream-of-consciousness style that Hunter calls Chaos Riddle Prose: “Shoe to killer in Connecticut … with Wet Fingers Worth of Worthiness … palms to sheiks … forehead feigned the Fool! … Touch do not! … Orion the Ore my Marina the Music! … The Music of the Spheres!” It’s a bit hard to follow, as Robillard leaps from literary reference to pun to onomatopoeic description of something happening right in front of him. Hunter’s obvious debt to various modernists feels more than a bit mannered now that Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a hundred years old. That said, there is something inherently compelling about a book that forces the reader to experience it on its own terms, and this is one such work. Hunter has created a surreally inviting wasteland in which to stage this morality play.

A captivating postmodern murder story.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4783-5381-2

Page Count: 300

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2017

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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