CRASH DIET

STORIES

A joyride through 11 stories of life, love, and regret in southern settings with McCorkle at the wheel. As she's demonstrated in her novels (Ferris Beach, etc.), she's doesn't mind trying a little stunt-driving, but, ultimately, she's completely in control. From the opening words—``Kenneth left me on a Monday morning before I'd even had the chance to mousse my hair...''—the title story draws us into the world of Sandra White Barkley, whose bartender husband has deserted her for another—thinner—woman. As Sandra's own bulk diminishes, her courage grows, and the result is the most satisfying of revenge scenarios, complete with lasagna, a black silk dress, and a cute psychiatrist wielding a yo-yo. In ``Sleeping Beauty, Revised,'' a young, divorced mother thinks her blind date may be Prince Charming, but on their outing to Captain Buck's Family Seahouse, with her young son in tow, all that's awakened in her is a dose of therapeutic anger. McCorkle has always been adept at using the comic clutter of modern-day young lives- -condos, answering machines, microwaves—to make a point about old- fashioned, everyday emotions: broken hearts, loneliness, false hopes. She does this to nice effect in stories like ``Comparison Shopping'' and ``First Union Blues.'' But more poignant still are two stories here where she shifts her focus to older women looking back on their lives. In ``Migration of the Love Bugs,'' a Massachusetts woman stacks up her new sunny Florida life against her old, worn, city apartment, and Florida loses in a big way. ``Departures,'' a haunting, wonderful story, recounts a happy marriage and a widow who now spends her days at airports and malls in an effort to escape the emptiness of home. The final story, ``Carnival Lights,'' unfortunately ends this collection on a weaker note—it's a tad too trite. But, on the whole, McCorkle's talent shines here. Freewheeling down the byways of the New South. With McCorkle driving, every detour is sure to take you straight through the human heart.

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-945575-75-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1992

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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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Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice,...

LONG DIVISION

A novel within a novel—hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying.

Citoyen “City” Coldson is a 14-year-old wunderkind when it comes to crafting sentences. In fact, his only rival is his classmate LaVander Peeler. Although the two don’t get along, they’ve qualified to appear on the national finals of the contest "Can You Use That Word in a Sentence," and each is determined to win. Unfortunately, on the nationally televised show, City is given the word “niggardly” and, to say the least, does not provide a “correct, appropriate or dynamic usage” of the word as the rules require. LaVander similarly blows his chance with the word “chitterlings,” so both are humiliated, City the more so since his appearance is available to all on YouTube. This leads to a confrontation with his grandmother, alas for City, “the greatest whupper in the history of Mississippi whuppings.” Meanwhile, the principal at City’s school has given him a book entitled Long Division. When City begins to read this, he discovers that the main character is named City Coldson, and he’s in love with a Shalaya Crump...but this is in 1985, and the contest finals occurred in 2013. (Laymon is nothing if not contemporary.) A girl named Baize Shephard also appears in the novel City is reading, though in 2013, she has mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before City’s humiliation. Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways.

Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world.

Pub Date: June 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932841-72-5

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Bolden/Agate

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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