NUMBERS IN THE DARK

AND OTHER STORIES

A fascinating, frustrating posthumous collection of short tales (previously unavailable in English) from the great Italian writer (1923-85), assembled and introduced by his widow, Esther Calvino, and vigorously translated by English novelist and Italophile Parks. A series of "Fables and Stories," written between 1943 and 1958, includes such comic dramatizations of intellectual and metaphysical concepts as "Making Do," which ingeniously expresses the difficulties of imposing freedom on a population accustomed to tyranny, and "A General in the Library," in which a military task force investigates the allegation "that books contained opinions hostile to military prestige"—with embarrassing unforeseen results. Here and there, Calvino overexplicitly discloses his stories' morals (it should be remembered that many of this volume's inclusions were left uncompleted at his death). Still, the better pieces won't disappoint Calvino's many admirers. The marvelous title story, for example, reveals to a small boy helping his mother clean office buildings at night the hidden truth about the bogus economic stability of the entire planet. And the unfinished "The Queen's Necklace," a terrific melodrama developed from the fortunes of the story's title object, shimmers with the promise of witty anatomy of the several social levels occupied by its losers and finders. The later "Tales and Dialogues," dating from 1968 to 1984, are comparatively slow-paced and theme-ridden, including pieces written to order for IBM's computer operations department and, of all things, a Japanese distillery. It's make-work stuff, only infrequently showing Calvino in top form. The best selections are "Henry Ford," an unproduced television script in which Calvino simultaneously presents both a stalwart defense of the great industrialist's capitalistic and paternalistic principles and some sly mockery of them, and "Beheading the Heads," a fantasy about periodic executions of elected public officials that offers a classic example of Calvino's ability to transmute concept into hauntingly vivid fiction. A last hurrah from one of the modern masters. Middling Calvino but, for all that, a welcome gift we would not willingly have done without.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-44205-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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