by Hal Ackerman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 11, 2016
Engaging tales that should please fans of 20th-century American male authors.
A collection of short stories examines marriage, fatherhood, and divorce from a variety of angles.
In this volume, Ackerman (Write Screenplays that Sell, 2014, etc.) explores familiar territory with fresh eyes. His stories follow characters approaching the end of a relationship or enduring its immediate aftermath. Relationships between parent and child, husband and wife, or even a family of rabbits—the author places them all under his microscope precisely at their moments of transformation. The collection strongly recalls the conflicted, masculine themes and anxieties of John Updike, Saul Bellow, and Philip Roth, but mostly Updike. Ackerman shares Charles Bukowski’s love of the racetrack (the setting for “Incidental Contact” and “The Dancer Horse”), but not his passion for heavy boozing and prostitution. At times, there are dashes of Haruki Murakami’s surrealism, as in the title story or the opener, “Trim,” in which a woman starts to appear regularly at the protagonist’s house and give him haircuts. In every story, the author walks a thin line between sentimentalism and emotional revelation; the collection slips into both sides equally. “The Dancer Horse,” in which a man goes home with a woman he met at a horse race only to change his mind, takes itself too seriously and fails to feel authentic. “General Doolittle's Raid Over Tokyo” would be an exquisite tale of a marriage if it weren’t wedded to a melodramatic incest plot (incest, oddly, is a fairly common theme in the book). But when Ackerman is at his best, as in “Roof Garden” or “Leash,” he captures an elusive sensation of loss to marvelous effect. The former story follows a man spending the day with his daughter before he tells her about his decision to leave his wife; it would fit nicely in an Updike collection. The latter is a much-welcome deviation from the other tales. “Leash” focuses on a woman who must care for her estranged daughter’s dog after she dies in a car accident. It’s an impressive piece effusing genuine empathy, and it proves Ackerman is capable of more than the male-centered stories he writes so comfortably.Engaging tales that should please fans of 20th-century American male authors.
Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016
Page Count: 128
Publisher: Hadassa Word Press
Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2016
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.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
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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