In terms of pushing the story along and getting Kong atop the Empire State Building, DeVito and Strickland get the job done....


A just-passable pulpy novel based on Meriam C. Cooper’s tale King Kong, immortalized in a 1933 film, from DeVito and Strickland (Kong: King of Skull Island, 2004).

“Have you ever heard of . . . Kong?” one character asks another of the iconic gorilla. Oh, yes. And with Peter Jackson’s December ’05 film remake, the world will hear quite a lot more. The authors’ aim is to reintroduce swashbuckling filmmaker Cooper’s original novel and film. Authorized by the Cooper estate, it features a top-secret excursion to mythical Skull Island in search of the storied Kong and a cast of characters cemented in the popular imagination by the film: an old sea salt with a monkey for a pet, a danger-seeking moviemaker, a dashing leading man and a pretty waif (lured, starving, off the streets of New York). The prose here is simultaneously workmanlike and sensationally extravagant (“High above, the nimble airplanes renewed their dance of death as they dove toward Kong in another grotesquely beautiful ballet”). Newcomers will appreciate the sense of mystery that builds during the voyage and pre-Kong encounters with Skull Island natives. As with the film, the third act can seem a long time coming. A more contemporary and adult approach might have invited book-club explorations of colonialism, racism and humankind’s exploitation of the natural world, but the idea is to keep the cornerstone of the franchise as pure as possible. This they do, though the best piece of writing here is James V. D’Arc’s foreword. The curator of Cooper’s papers at Brigham Young University, D’Arc writes movingly of Cooper, truly a larger-than-life figure—although not as large as his famous primate.

In terms of pushing the story along and getting Kong atop the Empire State Building, DeVito and Strickland get the job done. But whether today’s readers will appreciate their faithful effort is another question.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-34915-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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