MASQUES IV

ALL-NEW WORKS OF HORROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL

Fourth volume, the best yet, in this sometimes waver-y series. A high number of hits marks this collection of horror originals, with two or three possible classics in the field. Not so oddly, the most charming tale is the sole reprint, entertainer Steve Allen's ``The Secret'' (1956), which opens with ``I didn't know I was dead until I walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror''—and never misses a beat throughout. Dan Simmons's ``My Private Memoirs of the Hoffer Stigmata Pandemic'' is the top tale for inventiveness, originality, and unity of effect, and deserves expansion. It opens with Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News; his face melts, undergoing the Change—a pandemic that strikes mankind- -in which one's moral character suddenly becomes monstrously evident on one's face. ``Official word was that Mrs. Reagan died of shock at the sight of her husband after the Change. It's true that Ron's case of Liar's leprosy, apathy osseus, and stupidity sarcoma was impressive....'' Chet Williamson's ``The Pack'' has a sizzling opening, with the return to life of dogs killed violently by humankind who are still grotesquely flattened by car tires, have spines splintered and innards hanging out, and now run in packs hunting men. Cartoonist Gahan Wilson has a clever variation on The Birds in his ``Sea Gulls,'' which finds baleful sea gulls as nemeses to a wife-murderer. F. Paul Wilson's ``Please Don't Hurt Me,'' told entirely in dialogue, is quite sexy as an 11-year-old girl unwittingly turns the tables on her abuser. James Kisner's ``Splatter Me an Angel'' tells of a worm turned into a cruel seducer, who meets his match in a woman who is his sexual mirror- opposite. Bruce Boston's ``Animal Husbandry'' reveals a wife's bristling rage for revenge when her husband comes home with a vasectomy—she gets very hairy about it. Some misfires, but largely a sheaf of bright storytelling.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 1991

ISBN: 0-940776-26-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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