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THE PITCHER SHOWER

Harington rides again.

The Depression years are made a mite less depressing by the likable protagonist of this latest of Harington’s ongoing Arkansas Ozark chronicles.

He’s “Hoppy Boyd, the happy moving showman of moving pitchers,” an itinerant entrepreneur who brings good cheer in the form of cowboy movies to the inhabitants of the several towns along his route. Hoppy (real name: Landon) isn’t all that happy, however, burdened by a strong sense of his failure to amount to much and by chronic sexual frustration exacerbated no less by the infrequency of his experiences than with the nagging fear that he’s an inept lover. Matters begin improving when Hoppy permits teenaged stowaway “Carl Whitlow” to become his assistant, delightedly discovers Carl’s true identity and bolsters his traveling shows with such inspired innovations as magic tricks and buttered popcorn. Trouble looms, in the unambiguously threatening form of hellfire-and-damnation preacher Emmett Binns (who finds error and blasphemy in even popular favorite Hopalong Cassidy’s G-rated exploits), and in the outwardly pleasing one of manly storekeeper Arlis Fraught (both Hoppy’s declared best friend and his most troublesome rival). The novel meanders along amiably, and pretty much plotlessly—until all Hoppy’s films are stolen, and in desperation he exhibits Max Reinhardt’s classic 1930s film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the complications kick in. The ensuing pleasures include a rib-tickling summary of the play’s dizzying plot (from Hoppy’s hornswoggled viewpoint), and a series of mock-heroic romantic escapades that deftly echo Shakespeare while gently revealing what fools these good country people be. It’s all somewhat ragged, but Harington sells it skillfully, providing some luscious zingers: “Singing cowboys ought to be rounded up and shot,” he writes, and “There’s no understanding the human heart, let alone the human tallywhacker.” That last one belongs in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

Harington rides again.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59264-123-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Toby Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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