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DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME

Even the most nostalgic reader will be sick of all the brand names and band names by the time Dunn manages to combine...

The Rolling Stone reporter and memoirist (But Enough About Me: A Jersey Girl’s Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous, 2006) remembers the ’80s in her first novel.

In her 30s, Lillian Curtis is old before her time. Her idea of fun is eating creamed chicken on toast with the septuagenarian talk-show host who is not only her boss but her best friend. She discovers that her husband wants more excitement out of life when she arrives home one night—looking forward to an evening of comfy socks and pizza—and he tells her that their marriage is over. In the midst of a break-up and with nowhere to live in Manhattan, Lillian goes back to her parents’ house in New Jersey. Removed from her adult life and settled into her girlhood room—a shrine to her teen years that hasn’t changed a bit since the late ’80s—Lillian has a chance to be young again. In fact, with her 20-year reunion on the horizon, Lillian not only reconnects with her adolescent girlfriends, she also gets another shot with the mysterious, alluring guy who might have been her one true love. Dunn understands that, to a reader of a certain age, the idea of experiencing John Hughes-style romance one more time is irresistible, and she can be a sharp, funny writer. But it turns out that Lillian was a loser and a jerk in high school—she let boys walk all over her, she threw over her fat friend to be popular—and she becomes a loser and a jerk all over again when she tries to recapture the thrills of youth. By the time Lillian begins to realize this about herself, the reader might be too fed up with her to feel she deserves yet another chance. And the ’80s references wear thin pretty quickly, too.

Even the most nostalgic reader will be sick of all the brand names and band names by the time Dunn manages to combine Tretorns and the Violent Femmes in the same sentence.

Pub Date: July 29, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-345-50190-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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