For readers with a high enough threshold for meandering diatribes to make it to the end, answers to certain questions—e.g.,...


The latest creation from Sutton (Thong Nation, 2006, etc.) is a mad man in a mad world, obsessed with brand names and luxury but furious with cheap materialism and shallowness of life in London as the credit crisis of 2008 unfolds.

When he isn’t wooing women who want nothing to do with him, Matt harangues retail clerks and managers as he attempts to return shoes, luggage, designer eyewear and other ill-advised purchases that he goes from fervently desiring to deeming faulty. He’s having cash-flow problems which he attempts to remedy by offering friends and family further “investment opportunities” in a murky business scheme he’s hatching with the North Koreans. Dumped by yet another girlfriend, Matt turns from disturbed to unhinged—his rambling internal rant follows increasingly sinister misadventures punctuated by ominous gaps in which the women he encounters, spies on and stalks disappear. Consumed with ire with others’ excess and jealousy over their seemingly endless credit, while he, broke and bashed-up by violent incidents that are never fully elucidated is forced to cadge free meals from the friends and associates he compulsively mistreats and to steal cheap wine, he spirals downward into a paranoid, self-destructive loop. His narrative becomes elliptical and contradictory, rife with nonsensical digressions and digressions within digressions, usually on his purchase history and feelings on design, style and the lack of integrity in name-brand products. Very little happens, although there is a sort of progress to his decay. An image, contradictory to his deluded self-image and fantasy-life, begins to emerge from glimpses of his reflection and others’ shock and disgust at his increasingly bruised and scratched face, his wonky glasses and disheveled demeanor. Meant to be a satire, what little humor there is in his absurd turns of mind and in the juxtaposition of his delusional rants and pathetic reality soon wears thin, with little support from the weak plot and meandering language. But are Matt’s murderous thoughts just thoughts?

For readers with a high enough threshold for meandering diatribes to make it to the end, answers to certain questions—e.g., what’s actually going on with Matt? will he ever manage to escape to North Korea?—aren’t much of a reward, given the larger question posed by a lack of story, entertainment or meaning: Who cares?

Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60945-007-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • 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

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet