Solid storytelling and a sequential short-story format uplift the potentially ponderous, gay-specialty plotline about a...

SO THEY SAY

COLLECTED STORIES

Linked short stories follow a half-century in the life of a Florida-born gay man and his search for emotional happiness and stability on two coasts and two continents.

Urquhart presents a cycle of interlinked short stories (one late entry brushes novella length), some previously published in literary journals, to form one leapfrogging life-arc saga—approximately 50 years for protagonist Rex Fordham. First introduced in the late-1950s as a pudgy, introspective boy born into a Baptist-repressive community in central Florida, the young Rex learns that some aspects of the adult world are of a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” nature, and this includes his own growing attraction to males, which increases when he exercises his flab into muscle and catches the interest of other homosexual men in college-level wrestling and adventure-sports spheres. Despite these furtive side encounters, Rex tries to fit in with the American mainstream, moving to Colorado, becoming an architectural engineer and marrying up in society to a responsible woman (albeit one in deep denial about Rex’s proclivities—and her own father’s, for that matter). They have twin boys, but a tragedy finally ends the marriage and compels Rex to come out of the closet. He continues his quest for lasting love and full acceptance, moving to San Francisco and even to France, and in middle age learns to value the people around him, the partners he has lost and the possibilities that still lay ahead. The fragmentary nature of the narrative succeeds in giving it the forward motion it might have lacked as traditionally structured, brick-thick novel. Urquhart wisely restricts himself to his character’s interior lives and desires rather than attempt to dole out history lessons in 20th-century LGBT life (AIDS is barely mentioned, Stonewall is AWOL and even religious intolerance and homophobia aren’t made much of an issue), though he does frequently invoke the dynamic of closeted husbands/deceived wives. Some segments shift the POV from Rex to supporting characters, with mixed results (a porn-addicted father-in-law rants like a cackling villain of the pulps), but Urquhart’s prose is usually on the mark and richly resonant, even for non-gay readers. The author, a former writing instructor, appends the collection with a “Reader's Guide” selection of questions for discussion.

Solid storytelling and a sequential short-story format uplift the potentially ponderous, gay-specialty plotline about a restless quest for love.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466475199

Page Count: 674

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2012

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

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