A lively art-world drama that tackles grand themes.

A MOST WELCOME CHANGE

A potentially valuable work of art generates familial animosity, legal drama, and political intrigue in this debut novel.

Nick Jaffe is a successful artist in his late 70s living in Sarasota, Florida, who’s inclined toward frothing diatribes about the shallowness of modern art—particularly its embrace of abstraction. He’s known for creating figurative pictures, which are generally regarded as beautiful, if unfashionable. Nick confides in Robert Ainsley—the owner of the art gallery that exhibits and sells his work—that he possesses what appears to be a painting by Ty Bromley that, if authentic, could be worth untold millions. In the 1960s, when Nick studied art in New York City, he was close friends with Bromley, but they had a falling-out over their conflicting opinions on the nature of art. Bromley later became a celebrity for producing precisely the kind of work Nick despised. The old artist remains maddeningly vague about the painting’s provenance, but he entrusts it to Robert for safekeeping, anxious that his own wayward adult son, David, might attempt to steal it. When Nick dies, he leaves all of his art to Robert, who, in turn, has the Bromley authenticated by experts. David stages an open war for the Bromley’s ownership, and as publicity around it grows, a nefarious Russian oligarch and a despot from a nation called El Pico make a bid for it, too. Meanwhile, Robert attempts to repair his broken marriage. Debut author Mann has conjured a deliciously eclectic drama that sharply satirizes pretention and venality in the professional art world. Throughout the novel, his knowledge of both art and the law is redoubtable—he’s a lawyer by profession—and his prose is self-assured and inventive; the Bromley painting even gets a chance to speak for itself in a chapter titled “First Painting Singular.” Undergirding the drama and high jinks is a serious consideration of what truly counts as art—or, more precisely, a presentation of the great debate about what it means for something to truly be beautiful. As a result, Mann’s inaugural effort is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

A lively art-world drama that tackles grand themes.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-979629-66-9

Page Count: 266

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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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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