An assured and surprisingly gripping tale about the perils of ideological conformity.


Two men have their certainties upended in this story’s parallel plots.

In Warren’s debut novel, Cary University English professor Alan Fernwood feels fairly content with his life. His wife is out of town, his children are grown and out of the house, he teaches an intellectually lively class on Shakespeare’s plays, and he’s steadily working on his latest book of academic literary criticism, Shakespeare’s Journey. Likewise, Cary City Herald newspaper reporter Elvin Alvarez is moderately happy turning out unobjectionable copy reporting on discoveries in science, technology, and medicine. But in short order both men are startled out of their complacency. While seeing his wife off for her long trip to her parents’ home in Taipei, Taiwan, Fernwood buys a book at the airport on the Shakespeare Authorship Question. He’s smugly skeptical at first (“he felt angry and impatient that anyone would waste time on such nonsense”), but the more he reads about the subject, the more he begins to doubt his former certainties about whether or not the Man from Stratford actually wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. Even while he continues to teach his class with undiminished skill (the long stretches narrating these class sessions are genuinely absorbing as general-interest probes into the plays), his certainty about the standard Shakespeare story starts to rapidly erode. Meanwhile, in an effort to make his columns more controversial, Alvarez digs into the “settled science” regarding humanity-propelled global warming. He begins his investigations sure about the oft-cited scientific consensus on the subject, but “the more he learned, the harder it was to see how human-produced carbon dioxide could have much effect on the planet’s climate.” Warren peppers these ideological themes with some human conflict in his cerebral and meaty tale (Alvarez is in love with Fernwood’s daughter, and Fernwood himself is moonstruck by one of his young students). But the book’s main interest (only slightly weakened by its split focus) is its energetic dissection of the science of global warming and particularly the details of the Shakespearean authorship debate. (At one point, Fernwood discovers that Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. never thought Shakespeare wrote the works “because no evidence exists that he had ever visited Italy, where a dozen of the plays are set.”) Even readers familiar with the controversy will learn something in this intellectually fast-paced telling.

An assured and surprisingly gripping tale about the perils of ideological conformity.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5334-1421-2

Page Count: 396

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2017

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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