This globe-trotting tale remains a tough read for anyone looking for linear storytelling.
An artist embarks on a momentous journey during turbulent times.
Though the author draws on his own experiences, this ambitious book is a novelistic work rather than a memoir. Gac-Artigas’ (Ado’s Plot of Land, 2002, etc.) hero has a view from the ground of historical movements, plying his trade as an actor, theater director, and poet in Chile during the months leading up to the 1970 election and in Colombia at the dawn of the drug trade. He immerses himself in revolutionary politics and romance in Paris and Rome in the late ’60s and, at different times, finds himself in jail and then exiled from his native Chile. He is an activist and an artist in dangerous times and places, traveling the world from South America to Europe, often fleeing one place to get to another. Along the way, he shares some observations of the countries he visits (“On entering Colombia, when you enter the hot lands—and along its borders there are no cold lands—the damp heat clings to your body; the mosquitoes cling to your body so they can slake their thirst for fresh blood; its history clings to your body and to your history”). Ultimately, he starts over with his family in Rotterdam. While based on Gac-Artigas’ life story, what the author is after here isn’t an orderly tale. It’s more evocative than informational. The prose can be beautiful and lyrical, as when he talks about the birth of the protagonist’s daughter, writing, “The lights bowed their heads before her beauty and her honey-colored skin, and nestled her among its rays.” But the narrative often doesn’t provide a grounding in a period or place, making it hard to judge where a scene is happening, who is there, or where it fits into the timeline. And as skilled as the author’s poetry can be, he is also prone to get lost in his own language. In one passage, he writes: “That was the beginning of the mirror refracting his image, reflecting both reality and the individual, torn between the anguish of other people’s suffering and the unbearable pain it inflicted on oneself.” That sentence continues for several more lines, making the meaning of the original metaphor impenetrable. There are some wonderful moments in this work, but the author’s design makes them hard to unearth.This globe-trotting tale remains a tough read for anyone looking for linear storytelling.
Pub Date: March 13, 2017
Page Count: 456
Publisher: Ediciones Nuevo Espacio-AcademicPressENE
Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2017
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
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National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by J.D. Salinger ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 15, 1951
A strict report, worthy of sympathy.
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
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951
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