THE WAY WE KNOW IN DREAMS

STORIES

Dreams and memories, and what can be mined there, inform many of these tart, often funny stories by prize-winning writer Weaver (Men Who Would Be Good, 1992, etc.). Hoping to recapture something—good or bad—of childhood memories of summers past, a middle-aged man in ``Fearing What Dreams'' returns to live year-round in his family's lakeside cottage in central Wisconsin. He recalls, with some pleasure, readying the cabin each Memorial Day, carrying buckets of water to his unhappy mother to prime the kitchen pump, his grandfather building the porch—but the townsfolk only vaguely recall him and his family. ``Summer people,'' he's told, ``have no business in the country after Labor Day.'' In a delightful lampoon, Darcy, ``Poet- in-Residence'' at a multinational corporation, brags to rival poets—scruffy, bearded, jaded poseurs every one—that he owns two dozen three-piece suits and composes on a personal computer. Is he ``not a poet, less a poet,'' because he versifies for VPs and CEOs? A modern-day Faust breaks out of his writer's block when Alma Jean, his saucy, grubby, odoriferous muse (who grows in size the more he believes) finds him work ghostwriting a book on stock market scandals in the mordant but overly clamorous ``Batteiger's Muse.'' In the title story, dreams become enfolded within memories within dreams for a Vietnam veteran who casts his memory back to a dream he had while undergoing exit orientation debriefing at An Loc. In the dream he and his Uncle Roy chatted and reminisced at a family reunion. That his uncle's tales of card sharks and gunplay may or may not have been true matters little to the protagonist's memory of the dream or of his uncle: In memories and in dreams ``you know things without seeing them or being told.'' Occasionally too subtle; often too obvious. Still, these stories have a piquant resonance beyond simple entertainment.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8262-0931-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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