A gritty, often gross tale of a desperate ne’er-do-well.

WE RUN BAD

In this debut novel, an alcoholic gambler gets the chance to make money on the other side of the table.

When the housing market collapses and destroys Tim’s dream of flipping an old Philadelphia dwelling—and the portion of his savings he spent to acquire it—he abandons the property to his creditors and moves to Atlantic City to try “to play poker for a living.” Turns out that this is easier said than done, as Tim learns once he starts running bad. “What does ‘running bad’ mean?” he asks readers. “It means losing $50,000 in just under three months at middle stakes poker. It means a $2700 chicken sandwich—that’s the chicken sandwich you eat right after you’ve just lost $2700 right before lunchtime.” He’s also gained 30 pounds and developed a crippling addiction to alcohol while routinely entertaining ideas of drinking himself to death as a means of escaping his troubles. He tries to stay out of Atlantic City by squatting in his own foreclosed row house in Philadelphia, but he’s driven away when a neighborhood flood sends “raw sewage gurgling up through the basement’s drainage system” and he’s beset by a biblical plague of flies. He returns to Atlantic City and has just hit rock bottom when he gets an offer from “the world’s most inconspicuous loan shark,” Brian: running an underground card game in midtown Manhattan. It’s illegal and it’s rigged against the players—just like the casinos, Wall Street, and the rest of America. Tim agrees and is quickly dropped into a world of rakes, vigs, rich college kids, vague threats, and Russian floor men, where everything is too expensive and fools are easily parted with their money. For once Tim is on the winning side of a hustle—at least until, as happens with every hustle, the floor collapses out from under him. Curry’s prose deftly captures Tim in all his down-and-out glory. Like most literary drunks, he’s equal parts philosopher (“The secret behind all class conflict and social instability in the Western hemisphere lies within the walls of this American public convenience store”) and wince-inducing cautionary tale (“After about six more hours of trying to blind myself, I plod my way to the bathroom, as it seems the safest, most logical place to have a seriously dark moment”). Tim is offended by the casual racism of others, though he is a frequent source of it, and he rarely meets a woman who doesn’t cause him to go on at some length about the ways in which she disgusts him. Tim’s misadventures evoke the long tradition of vagabond literature practiced by writers like George Orwell, Hunter S. Thompson, Denis Johnson, and others. While Tim’s story will be compelling enough for fans of that genre, Curry does not successfully excavate enough humanity from the protagonist’s fringe experiences to warrant all the misanthropy and exploitative leering. The connections between the 2008 financial crisis, gambling, and addiction are fertile, but the author doesn’t quite tie them together in a satisfying way.

A gritty, often gross tale of a desperate ne’er-do-well.

Pub Date: June 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73241-121-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: The Okie Doke Book Publishing Corporation

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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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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