Reuss has given us a fascinating novel about interesting people who become fully formed in his writing, but the story never...

MAISIE AT 8000 FEET

OR: THE PLACES WE LET GO

A middle-aged woman traces her father’s past on foot, by car, and from the sky as she uses her ability to fly.

Reuss begins his novel with a lovely bit of magic realism—an 8-year-old girl moving out of the flight path of a jetliner over New Jersey. The night landscape is below her, and “she could see herself in the distance, soaring, overtaking the woman she would become in the decades ahead.” That girl, now a divorced woman, Maisie, begins a journey through the pine barrens of her youth, reconnecting with the land and with her late father, Alden, and learning about the past from her father's cousin Sally—a wonderful character, quirky and comfortable. Sally remembers infinite details of people and places, time and space, but she has dementia and can't remember the previous day. Maisie is on a quest to discover her father, who was shunned by his in-laws after his wife’s death since he was a free-spirited artist certainly not able to raise their grandchild as only they could. His art is deeply connected to its place; he reworks the landscape in grand visions of ancient ruins and modern life. Maisie spent the summer she was 8 with him at Sally’s home in the woods, but her father disappears for good after losing his art in a fire. Forty-five years later, Maisie is contacted by Sally, who tells her that her father has died in Mexico, which initiates Maisie's search for his past in what's left of the forest. Reuss’ words are elegant, beautiful at times, creating a labyrinth of time, and his characterization is truly wonderful. But the book never comes together. Alden’s landscape art is an intellectual dead end for the reader, and the sense of family through place that Maisie longs for does not materialize, except from the air, real or not.

Reuss has given us a fascinating novel about interesting people who become fully formed in his writing, but the story never quite does.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60953-128-7

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Unbridled Books

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

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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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