INFAMOUS

Last spring, Dutton acquired the US rights to Collins's British bestseller Too Damned Famous, here renamed Infamous—a perfectly publishable Hollywood glamour-soap, neither wonderful nor horrible, though having its moments (`` `Do it,' said Katherine's inner voice. `Do it, you fool. You've tracked him down all the way to Vegas-what the hell do you want? Have you made a fool of yourself just for a shtup?' ''). Teasing readers with the possibility of a roman Ö clef, Collins (Love & Desire & Hate, 1990, etc.) makes her heroine a TV superstar, one Katherine Bennet of The Skeffingtons, a successful prime-time soap about a ``dysfunctional family'' of southern California winemakers. Called Kitty by her friends and the ``Georgia poison peach'' by an adoring public, Katherine is the actress all America loves to loathe. But in Collins's version (reversing the actual casting on her own real-life, long-running show, Dynasty), Kitty is an American, though the parts of the other two major Skeffs are played by Brits: an older man with ego and toupee problems, and a blond costar (who isn't, naturally, Linda Evans), a nasty, silicone-enhanced former child star who's carrying on a secret mud-slinging publicity campaign against Kitty. Slogging through 14-hour days on the set, eating endless meals of tunafish and rice cakes to stay thin, Kitty negotiates her trials and tribulations with the help of her cellular phone and a huge personal staff: agent, manager, publicist, secretary, maid, maid's husband, etc. Nightly, meanwhile, she bemoans the fact that, though famous, she's also loveless. So Katherine is easy pickings for the sexy sociopath she chooses to marry. How she eludes this homicidal husband (while wearing an 18th-century costume) as he pursues her through the predawn streets of Venice is a camp climax worthy of the Collins oeuvre, onscreen and off. By turns tedious and silly, with some interesting background on what happens behind the scenes of a TV series. (Literary Guild selection)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-525-94129-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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