A substantial life-and-times novel.

HYPOCRITES IN HIS MIDST

A STORY ABOUT FLAWED HUMAN BEINGS

Wilson’s memoir chronicles the life and times of an ordinary man.

“Yes, I made mistakes,” says Wilton Latso at the beginning of Wilson’s readable, unassuming nonfiction debut. “Who hasn’t?” In the course of the nearly 500 pages that follow, Wilton remembers and retells the story of his life, from his birth in a small town in Missouri to his youth in the rough housing projects of St. Louis, where his parents moved to find work. Wilton recalls a fairly normal, non-Norman Rockwell childhood growing up with his younger sister and brother, and he doesn’t shy away from narrating the grimmer aspects of those years, from grade-school bullies to the growing enmity between his parents (“They were Christians. They were supposed to forgive each other,” he observes. “What could they have possibly done wrong to each other?”). Wilton is an outgoing boy who turns into an outgoing young man, someone who makes friends—and eventually falls in love—easily. By the time he’s 20, he has a wife, three kids and a job he dislikes, but the author’s steady narrative hand prevents the amassing details from becoming too tedious. We follow Wilton and his friends and family through the middle years of the 20th century, watch as they drink and smoke dope and fight each other and reconcile. Through it all, we see Wilton himself grow wiser and more candid about the way he’s chosen to live his life: “A life without boredom often means a lot of mistakes.” He moves from job to job, always trying to balance having a good time with being a decent, responsible guy, and Wilson does a sure-handed, efficient job of layering the events of the larger world into his characters’ lives. We see them frightened by Vietnam and disillusioned by the Nixon administration, and we see them sometimes subsumed by the recreational drug culture of the ’70s. As the cast grows older (and expands with grandchildren), there’s an enjoyable sense of having watched these people grow and—sometimes reluctantly—mature.

A substantial life-and-times novel.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692026489

Page Count: 480

Publisher: DD Wilson Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2014

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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