``I seized what is nowadays made to seem / nearly nothing,'' Macklin writes. If she means by ``nearly nothing,'' poetry...

YOU'VE JUST BEEN TOLD

``Half the house here belongs to me. Half belongs to sound.'' Thus beautifully begins Macklin's second collection of poems, a reflection on loss and memory. ``In the taste / of the sour apple / is the bee''—and therein the history of everything required to bring us the apple. But our timing is off—the apple is unripe. Similarly, when we speak with intended clarity, we fail. Even in poems, which Macklin compares with mazes, ``just when you think you're getting close / to the center, you're moved away.'' At times Macklin pauses before her subject; at other times she maneuvers as if imagining lives while gazing at paintings—lives once removed, as it were. Memory, she seems to be saying, works exactly this way. Yet her poems seem risen from experience and from the awareness that what we lose remains in us, if skewed. The titles of the book's three sections (“Grammars of Attention,” “The Editorial We,” and “Persons Plural”) assert Macklin's preoccupation with the confusions of language. She contends that ``stories alone'' cannot reveal the truth without attention to (grammatical) rules we too often complain against. The way things are said is vital, but we frequently misspeak or misunderstand—and yet we construct our lives in response to such inaccuracies. How unfortunate that even thought depends on the undependable language in which it is threaded! ``Here is the sound I've missed,'' Macklin announces in one poem, knowing the reader can never hear it. And yet her poems aspire to help us accomplish exactly that.

``I seized what is nowadays made to seem / nearly nothing,'' Macklin writes. If she means by ``nearly nothing,'' poetry itself, we can be glad she did.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-393-04867-5

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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