BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY

Newspaper columnist Fielding’s first effort, a bestseller in Britain, lives up to the hype: This year in the life of a single woman is closely observed and laugh-out-loud funny. Bridget, a thirtysomething with a midlevel publishing job, tempers her self-loathing with a giddy (if sporadic) urge toward self-improvement: Every day she tallies cigarettes smoked, alcohol —units—consumed, and pounds gained or lost. At Una Alconbury’s New Year’s Day Curry Buffet, her parents and their friends hover as she’s introduced to an eligible man, Mark Darcy. Mark is wearing a diamond-patterned sweater that rules him out as a potential lust object, but Bridget’s reflexive rudeness causes her to ruminate on her own undesirability and thus to binge on chocolate Christmas-tree decorations. But in the subsequent days, she cheers herself up with fantasies of Daniel, her boss’s boss, a handsome rogue with an enticingly dissolute air. After a breathless exchange of e-mail messages about the length of her skirt, Daniel asks for her phone number, causing Bridget to crown herself sex goddess. . . until she spends a miserable weekend staring at her silent phone. By chanting “aloof, unavailable ice-queen” to herself, she manages to play it cool long enough to engage Daniel’s interest, but once he’s her boyfriend, he spends Sundays with the shades pulled watching TV—and is quickly unfaithful. Meanwhile, after decades of marriage, her mother acquires a bright orange suntan, moves out of the house, and takes up with a purse-carrying smoothie named Julio. And so on. Bridget navigates culinary disasters, mood swings, and scary publishing parties; she cares for her parents, talks endlessly with her cronies, and maybe, just maybe, hooks up with a nice boyfriend. Fielding’s diarist raises prickly insecurities to an art form, turns bad men into good anecdotes, and shows that it is possible to have both a keen eye for irony and a generous heart. (Film rights to Working Title; author tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88072-8

Page Count: 271

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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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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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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