A pointless exercise that might work for the “I challenge you with my shocking style” YA crowd.

AS SIMPLE AS SNOW

Engagingly written debut about a mysterious teenage girl’s disappearance, and more’s the pity: if Galloway were less sure and fluent, readers would be less likely to jump through his hoops before realizing he didn’t know why they were doing it, either.

Anastasia (Anna) Cayne transfers to Hamilton High and hangs out with the Goths, but the story’s unnamed narrator-boyfriend (an angsty teenager down on hypocrisy, we’ll call him Holden for convenience) discovers that the only resemblance between the Goths and Anna is the black mascara they both wear. Anna is accessorized with—if not completely composed of—a full set of cool outsider cultural tics. She spends her time writing fanciful obituaries for everyone in town; she introduces boyfriend Holden to Houdini, Poe, Rimbaud, Lovecraft, and Ambrose Bierce; plays him indie-rock music and shortwave broadcasts of mysterious counting voices; sends him messages in code, mysterious phrases, puzzles, and maps. Much remains unexplained about her even as she makes The Spooky and Unexplained part of Holden’s life. Where did her bruises come from? Why doesn’t her father have eyebrows? What was Anna’s involvement in the car crash of loutish alpha Goth, Bryce? Why doesn’t she like Mr. Devon, Holden’s favorite teacher? When Anna disappears, her dress neatly laid out beside a hole in an ice-covered river, even more questions arise. Why was there a condom wrapper under Anna’s couch, when Holden knew he’d disposed of his? Is Anna dead? Is she sending him messages, or is that just wishful thinking? Are the messages from the other side, or just from another town? Where did Holden’s drug-dealing best friend go for two weeks? Why did Mr. Devon lie about where he’s moving? Did the TV psychic really contact Anna? Who knows? And who cares? Like the puzzles and codes Anna sends, the questions either go unresolved, or if answered, lead nowhere.

A pointless exercise that might work for the “I challenge you with my shocking style” YA crowd.

Pub Date: March 17, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15231-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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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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