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TRANSMISSION

An interesting successor to Kunzru’s now-famous first novel.

Confusion and carnage on the information superhighway claim reputations, lives, and corporations.

The Anglo-Indian author’s harshly satiric second outing (after The Impressionist, 2002) opens with a charmingly funny account of young computer programmer Arjun Mehta’s hopeful departure from his smothering Indian parents and arrival in California, where the promised job that lured him there does not materialize. Arjun frets and daydreams, his culture shock soothed by romantic imaginings about “India’s sweetheart,” film star Leela Zahir—until he’s rescued by employment with Virugenix, a virus-fighting software company based in Washington State. After a brief period of security, Arjun is terminated, and, unwilling to return home in disgrace, becomes inconsolable. Then a malignant virus bearing the image of Leela Zahir attacks the world’s computers—and we know who’s created it. Meanwhile (in a comparatively bland subplot), British paper millionaire advertising mogul Guy Swift—whose New Age-y company declares itself “not so much an agency as an experiment in life-work balance”—sees his dream of “promoting Europe” scuttled, and loses his gorgeous coke-addicted girlfriend Gabrielle, who provides p.r. for a film Leela is shooting in Scotland, and beds Leela’s serial co-star, film hunk Rajiv Rana. Transmission (whose witty title is explained in the closing pages) wanders around its subject almost as much as Arjun does up and down the West Coast, fleeing toward Canada, then Mexico, before disappearing into the mists of computer legend, becoming a “hero” to hackers everywhere. Kunzru lays on the technical detail thickly, and computer geeks will perhaps best appreciate the sinuous meanderings and misdirections here. But its antic vision of an all-too-easily imperiled global village has enough charm and bite to engage us all.

An interesting successor to Kunzru’s now-famous first novel.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-525-94760-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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