Though a little on the somber side, a charming assortment of stories that give the species the respect it deserves.


An entertaining pack of canine-themed short stories ranging from the 19th century to the present day.

In assembling the 20 stories in this collection, editor Tesdell takes pains to avoid the hoariest doggie clichés—no Marley-ish melodrama or Lassie-like derring-do here. But even the most serious authors seem to employ dogs for a narrow range of literary purposes, usually as a way to amplify human foibles. In Jonathan Lethem’s “Ava’s Apartment” (an excerpt from his 2009 novel, Chronic City), a three-legged dog mirrors the emotional incompleteness of the story’s protagonist, a dissolute rock critic. P.G. Wodehouse’s hilarious “The Mixer” is narrated by a dog caught up in a hamfisted burglary scheme that’s upended by his sense of loyalty and generosity. And the dog walker in Lydia Millet's “Sir Henry” is befuddled by simple human interactions, so smitten is he with the moral purity of his charges. The dogs are rarely menacing—though stories from Patricia Highsmith and Ray Bradbury take gruesome turns—but in Tesdell’s hands, dogs and melancholy tend to be close companions. That’s most pronounced in Doris Lessing’s “The Story of Two Dogs,” in which the relationship between two farm dogs declines in relation to the affection they receive, and it’s also apparent in the dialogue a widower has with his companion in Tobias Wolff's “Her Dog,” and in the funereal hunting trip Thomas McGuane describes in “Flight.” This anthology isn’t a persistent downer, but the comic pieces are slightly less common: In addition to the Wodehouse tale, the collection includes a James Thurber classic, “Josephine Has Her Day,” a study in dog-owner loyalty, Anton Chekhov’s “Kashtanka,” in which a dog runs off with the circus, and best of all Mark Twain’s “A Dog’s Tale,” in which a dog’s feat of heroism reveals the foolishness of the pet's owners. Alas, the most recent of that batch of stories was published in the 1920s, suggesting that the funny dog story may simply be a thing of the past.

Though a little on the somber side, a charming assortment of stories that give the species the respect it deserves.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-59397-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Everyman’s Library

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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