GUARD OF HONOR

To anyone whose memory of James Gould Cozzens' earlier work is still green, it it welcome news that, after too long an interval, there is another book from him. Just as each of those books was sharply individual, so this one stands alone, on its own merits. He has done what, to most of us, would have seemed an impossible achievement. He has written an absorbing novel about a Florida Air Base; he has brought into sharp relief against the background of boredom and frustration and disappointment which most of the officers assigned there felt,-the little dramas of human lives, loves, hates, jealousies; the competitive spirit leveled at minor goals; the interrelation of men, whose ranks are more or less the accident of the chance of war. The C.O., General Beal, younger than most of his staff, is a vital figure, torn by his friendship for a difficult junior officer, eternally in hot water, disturbed profoundly by the necessity of playing off local prejudices re the color line against the directives from Washington, attempting to be human and at the same time the martinet military procedure demanded. The major issues motivate the story:- the problem of the Negro officers and the officers club; the disaster attendant on the trials of parachute jumping — and the question of blame. Nathaniel Hicks, in private life an important man in the magazine world, is the person through whom much of the story is seen —and his own private adventure with the WAC, Lieutenant Turck, bears evidence to the tensions, the conflicts, incidental to the artificialty of the life of civilians at war. Character after character comes clear- small bits as well as large. There's implicit in the whole the kind of drama Command Decision provided — against a setting that is infinitely less provocative of dramatic treatment. A long book- not always easy reading- with many subplots- with minor incident piled on minor incident- but the whole building up to an unforgettable pattern. Cozzens writes with a taut violence at times; and at other times with an expansive warmth — an unusual combination which makes for roundness of impression.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1948

ISBN: 0156376091

Page Count: 631

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1948

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

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