GASP!

An uninspired and often plodding first novel that attempts to register a warning about the horrors of smoking but ultimately bogs down in a tangled, snoozy plot. Martin Muntor, former journalist and hardcore smoker, has terminal lung cancer and doesn't plan to go quietly: He intends to bring down the whole tobacco industry with him. His idea of revenge against ToBacCo, Inc., the world's largest death-stick manufacturer, includes spiking several hundred packs of smokes with cyanide and FedEx-ing the tainted product to unsuspecting customers. Hundreds of ghastly deaths and an FBI manhunt later, an understandably alarmed ToBacCo CEO lurches into action, trying to spin a dire situation as the company's stock plummets in the face of a national cigarette recall. Enter Tom Rhoads, an alcoholic ex- security hack for ToBacCo. Cooperating with the feds (depicted here as typically clueless), Rhoads struggles against his own demons— and a nefarious ToBacCo hired gun who's attempting to frame him for the murder of an industry researcher—and clings to Muntor's slippery tail. The psycho's killing spree continues, however, lending a Unabomber-jag to an already ripped-from-the-headlines storyline. Building toward a showdown with ToBacCo's CEO, Rhoads enlists the aid of a matronly seventysomething shrink, who ends up guiding the hapless and somewhat dense investigator toward the light. Rhoads also hooks up with a disgruntled ToBacCo employee—a source of top-secret information—and tries to stay one step ahead of a wicked secretary (in Freudberg's world, women are either vamps or victims). Besides Muntor, Rhoads has to contend with the unexpected discovery of a scheme to increase tobacco's addictive nicotine content. Failing both as a contemporary morality tale and as a game of cat-and-mouse, a debut that succeeds only in painting a desperate and convincing picture of disease-peddlers and sufferers who have drifted off the deep end. (First printing of 50,000; $50,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 1996

ISBN: 1-56980-071-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Barricade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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