Over 80 years old, this admirable series might consider a new rule: No stories included that will appear in book form before the "best" volume does. The latest entry features quite a few already reviewed by Kirkus as parts of story collections (Lydia Davis, Junot Diaz, Tobias Wolff, Tim Gautreaux, etc.) and even novels (by Cynthia Ozick and Clyde Edgerton). That caveat aside, Proulx selects stories from almost all major venues, which makes series editor Kenison's ramblings about on-line mags, none represented, a bit silly. Combative and feisty, Proulx clearly prefers more conventional narrative forms, though the subjects here are free-ranging. Standouts include Jonathan Franzen's "Chez Lambert," a deft piece about an elderly couple and their daily lives in retirement. Equally textured and subtle is Jeffrey Eugenides's "Air Mail," a chronicle of its narrator's post-collegiate Wanderjahr, which takes him to the East and an apparent experience of spiritual ecstasy. Heavily determined by place are Para Durban's southern family tale "Soon," about the legacies of tough-minded women; Donald Hall's anti-nostalgic "From Willow Temple," spanning the century in Michigan and revealing the secret passions of some unforgiving people; and Alison Hagy's "Search Bay," set on Michigan's Upper Peninsula and neatly reflecting the harsh life of its central figure, a retired seaman who lives alone. Richard Bausch defines the humor here with his hilarious "Nobody in Hollywood," about two wayward brothers and the difficult women they encounter. Karen E. Bender's "Eternal Love" provides a touching counterpoint with its tale of two retarded adults getting married. Michelle Cliff and T.C. Boyle, both writers with heavy hands, consider the ironies of race and colonialism (Cliff) and the pro-life movement (Boyle). All in all, a strong sampling of what the major magazines (the New Yorker, Paris Review, GQ, etc.) are publishing these days.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 1997

ISBN: 0-395-79865-5

Page Count: 381

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1997

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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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