LIKE A HOLE IN THE HEAD

A curiously discordant and inchoate first novel set in Los Angeles and environs, and focussed on a thinly characterized young woman in pursuit of (and fleeing from) a gaggle of southern California grotesques, as well as her own recent past. Having drifted cross-country after her mother's death, Jill finds herself working at the Bitter Muse Bookstore. A passing dwarf who needs quick cash sells her a signed Jack London first edition, but returns soon thereafter, accompanied by a menacing companion, to demand it back. Alas, Jill has already sold the volume to Timmy, a bookseller acquaintance and former child movie star who lives along the Venice Beach canals surrounded by pet ducks, and who has inconveniently disappeared. The whimsy thickens as Jill's efforts to reclaim the fugitive book lead her to the Las Vegas casinos, a bit role in a film being shot by famed actor-director John Malcome, encounters with both disguised movie extras and real cops, and a climactic standoff that skillfully mimics the overexplanatory conclusions of any number of classic film thrillers. Besides the dwarf, Jill's antagonists and accomplices in this seesaw caper include a malnourished dog, a baffled water-delivery man, and an all-night veterinarian. It's hard to understand how they all interrelate and signify—but there are occasional fleeting echoes of James Purdy's Malcolm, another colorfully giddy tale of an embattled innocent. Darker matters are suggested—a father who may have had his son killed; the likelihood that Jill helped her cancer-ridden mother to die—but Banbury leaves these undeveloped. A smoothly written debut, graced with neat turns of phrase (a vomiting cat ``convulsed . . . like a furry accordion''; a roller- coaster ``loop[s] through the dark like a low-hanging constellation''), but its arbitrary weirdness makes it a chore to wade through. Interesting, overall, but crucially flawed.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1998

ISBN: 0-316-17110-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1997

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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