by Jack Kerouac ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2012
A forgotten novel—forgotten, by its author, for a reason—by Beat Generation icon Kerouac.
Years before taking to the highway, Kerouac tried his hand at a Jack London–esque yarn. He had all the material he needed out on the open ocean, where he served a short hitch in the Merchant Marine during a dangerous time of prowling wolf packs of Nazi submarines—and it’s a sobering thought to realize that Kerouac first tried his hand at a novel fully 70 years ago, back on dry land. The result is a work that, well, reads in many ways as if written 70 years ago (“It was there he’d met that cute little colored girl who belonged to the Young Communists League”). The story concerns a young man, “just above average height, thin, with a hollow countenance notable for its prominence of chin and upper lip muscles, and expressive mouth…and a pair of level, sympathetic eyes”—a young man, that is, very much like the 20-year-old Kerouac—who finds himself on shore leave in New York, and there gets himself in all sorts of whiskey-soaked mischief. Though Kerouac myth has it that he sprang fully formed, like Athena, from America’s brow with On the Road, this antedates his masterwork by a full decade, and it shows every sign of being a first book (as when, early on, Kerouac has difficulty deciding whether the narrative is to be in the past or the present tense, mixing both). But the centerpiece of the story is a friendship, sometimes bordering on homoerotic, between two young men in a time of war and social stress, which, of course, would remain Kerouac’s grand theme for many books to follow. Not much happens in the book, which, for all its awkwardness, has promising moments. However, readers expecting the exuberance and poetry of the later Kerouac will come away unsatisfied. Of interest primarily to scholars and diehard Kerouackers; general readers ought to head to the far more memorable On the Road, The Subterraneans and The Dharma Bums.
Pub Date: March 6, 2012
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Da Capo
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2012
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
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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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
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
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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