Tales that are emotional and intellectual but almost always moving; a superb collection.


A debut volume of short stories captures small slices of characters’ lives.

Most of the tales in this collection focus on brief incidents, like an EMT, new on the job, watching police deal with a deer struck by his ambulance or a kid trying to run home after getting caught stealing beer. Arias makes a strong impression with his stories, many of which have been previously published in journals and magazines. The time elapsed in a tale might be less than an hour, but he expertly reveals something particular about his characters and hints at something universal. This is obvious from the first story, “Deer Don’t Scream, Do They?” The inexperienced EMT is standing by the side of the road with a couple of cops and the ambulance driver as a deer lies dying on the road. If the animal were a person, the EMT would be helping the injured party. But he can’t, and neither, apparently, can the rookie cop, who makes a mess of trying to put the deer down. In the end, no matter what they do, they all have to move on to the next moment, the next sufferer. Some of the tales are gritty like that one, while others are more esoteric, such as “The Case for Viable Life in Atlantis,” which sets out opening and closing arguments and exhibits to prove that people should be able to breathe underwater. The central metaphor here gets a bit cloudy. Arias’ work is much more striking when he grounds it in more visceral events, no matter how strange the subject matter. In “Closer,” a man who recently lost his wife to illness finds himself drawn to crowds and contact and doesn’t break down to properly mourn until he is rejected after an awkward bathroom encounter. In “Writing Code,” a nerdy kid tries to come out of his shell by hanging mistletoe from trees and overhead wires on the route his crush walks to school. The author sets up the story from a “his and hers” perspective, which not only gives readers a look inside both characters, but also provides a heartbreaking twist.

Tales that are emotional and intellectual but almost always moving; a superb collection.     

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9980116-5-3

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Black Bomb Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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