Darkly comic journey touching on love, art and the nature of obsession.


Young novelist stalled after the early success of her first book becomes increasingly fixated on a famous filmmaker she has admired since childhood.

For 33-year-old Rebekah Kettle, few things are as comforting as the annual release of an Arthur Weeman movie. A prolific New York writer/director/actor (yes, think Woody Allen), Weeman has always been there for her, dating back to her parents’ divorce. So devoted is Rebekah that she spends $22,000 of her doctor father’s money at an Arthur Weeman prop sale, taking home such useful items as a gondola and an oxygen tank. Feeling slightly guilty about using her preoccupied dad’s money, which he has not yet discovered missing, she decides to pitch in at his medical practice after his assistant/mistress Irmabelle leaves. It is there she meets Mrs. Williams, a wheelchair-bound elderly woman suffering from what appears to be dementia. She also, it turns out, lives in the building facing Weeman’s, with a view into his kitchen. Soon Rebekah is wheeling Mrs. Williams about, buying her diapers—and watching Weeman. Things get weirder when she starts writing to him in the guise of a pubescent girl named Thalia. Her unanswered letters are wildly imaginative wonders of provocation and innocence, and she notices Weeman starting to squire around an actual underage schoolgirl. For Rebekah, Weeman’s inappropriate “relationship” is less troubling than the fact that her letters appear to have affected him. She soon realizes that she has found a subject for her second novel. Around this time, she meets her romantic match in Isaac Myman, an oddball tabloid photographer. As she and Isaac get closer, she feels torn: Exposing Weeman’s secret could win Isaac a career boost. In eccentric Rebekah, Belle (High Maintenance, 2001, etc.) has created another unforgettable narrator—funny, self-absorbed, a little damaged—and never predictable.

Darkly comic journey touching on love, art and the nature of obsession.

Pub Date: May 17, 2007

ISBN: 1-59448-946-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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