As angry, witty, and sweeping as The Bonfire of the Vanities.


Dunne’s volcanic posthumous novel follows the circus surrounding a brutal torture killing of a saintly African-American laborer.

Nobody has a bad word to say about Edgar Parlance, the local odd-jobs fixture who was partly skinned and murdered outside the bucolic hamlet of Regent, South Midlands, evidently by opportunistic thrill killers looking for a black victim. Instead, the public’s considerable fury is lavished on no-good suspects Duane Lajoie and Bryant Gover. But Duane’s half-sister, bratty Carlyle, the world’s most famous teenaged model, begs Teresa Kean, the civil-liberties lawyer whose parents Dunne killed off in Playland (1994), to defend him against both the law represented by state’s attorney J.J. McClure and the media frenzy personified by J.J.’s wife, “don’t call me Congresswoman” Poppy McClure, a right-wing tub-thumper who’s hoping to ride the case into the Governor’s mansion. Teresa enlists as her second chair J.J.’s former boss Max Cline, who was eased out of the Attorney General’s office over “lifestyle issues” and now teaches at an uncredentialed local community college, and joins battle—not to win her unwinnable case in court (once Bryant Gover turns State’s evidence, life without parole is the best she can hope for her client), but to fight the rising tide of politically expedient hatred, toadying, infighting, partisan scrambling, and attempts to claim the top of the greasy pole. The result is less a legal thriller—all hopes for a tidy resolution are dashed by a shockingly foreshortened ending—than a viciously funny carnival. Dunne stays above the fray by using Max’s pen to tar every participant, himself included, with a prose by turns jittery, racy, and venomous, and tossing off dozens of wildly inventive subplots involving such fauna as a lesbian talk-show host, a porn star turned cattle baron, and a college football hero who doesn’t mind hurting ladies.

As angry, witty, and sweeping as The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Pub Date: May 16, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4143-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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