“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry”: Robinson is enormously skilled at pushing the emotional buttons, but an aftertaste of...


It’s bright, it’s clever, and it’s going to be a major hit: a smashing success with the press and the public.

Movie producer Robinson’s semi-autobiographical debut about a Hollywood movie producer whose sister Ohio gets leukemia is already garnering press as the women’s tearjerker of 2004. And understandably so. Olivia, 34, is struggling unsuccessfully to produce a film adaptation of Don Quixote and contemplating the happier aspects of suicide when she receives word that her younger, newly married sister Maddie has been diagnosed with leukemia. Through Olivia’s letters—to her parents; best friend Tina and her ex- but still-loved boyfriend Michael; even to big-name Hollywood celebrities she wants involved in her film—we follow the ups and downs of Maddie’s illness as well as the ups and downs of Olivia’s career and love-life. The very studio that fired Olivia only a short time earlier agrees to produce Quixote, and Olivia’s movie ambitions take off. From Hollywood and from locations in Europe, she travels back and forth to Shawnee Falls to be with her family, and the contrasts and connections between the two worlds lie at the novel’s heart. In Ohio, Olivia witnesses her reticent mother and alcoholic father’s long marriage in a new light. Maddie herself is down-to-earth and spunky throughout her treatments, side-effects, false hope of remissions, and ultimate downward spiral. Her religious husband is a rock. Michael, a painter who is handsome and wonderful but wants her to live with him in New Mexico, visits and beckons Olivia back, but her ambition resists. Meanwhile, Hollywood politics turn ugly, but despite a slight bout of craziness when she steals the car of her nemesis and drives it into the ocean, Olivia perseveres. She hires a new, handsome director. Don Quixote, starring Robin Williams (bound to make a cameo in the film adaptation) opens to good reviews if not great numbers. Maddie dies gracefully, leaving behind a legacy of love.

“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry”: Robinson is enormously skilled at pushing the emotional buttons, but an aftertaste of manipulation lingers. There’s also something self-serving about the writing, something frankly very Hollywood about it. But will it sell? Is there balm in Gilead?

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2004

ISBN: 0-316-73502-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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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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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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