It’s 1973, another magic baseball season. The National League East has six teams contending, among them the traditionally...

CALICO JOE

Only one player in Major League Baseball history has been hit and killed by a pitch, but bean balls—balls thrown near the head—have ended careers. Grisham’s (The Litigators, 2011, etc.) novel imagines the act and its consequences.

It’s 1973, another magic baseball season. The National League East has six teams contending, among them the traditionally hapless Chicago Cubs, soon jinxed once again when its first baseman is injured. Now the Cubs must add a minor leaguer to the roster. That's Joe Castle, a kid from Calico Rock, Ark. Calico Joe immediately begins to set rookie records, leading the Cubs to the top of the standings. Watching from New York is Paul Tracey, a baseball fan as avid as only an 11-year-old boy can be. In fact, Paul’s father pitches for the New York Mets, but Warren Tracey, “accustomed to getting whatever he wanted,” is a jerk. Warren is a journeyman pitcher, solid in an occasional game, kicked around from one team to another, never an All Star. Warren also abuses his family, drinks and chases women. The novel unfolds from Paul’s adult perspective, with flashbacks. The crucial plot point comes in a flashback when Calico Joe, putting up “mind-boggling” numbers over 38 games, meets Warren in Shea Stadium and hits a home run. During his next at bat, as part of some unwritten “code,” Warren goes head-hunting and beans the young player. Calico Joe’s career is over, and he drifts home to Calico Rock, partially paralyzed, speech impeded, to work as a groundskeeper rather than earning a plaque in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Decades later, long estranged from his father, Paul learns that Warren is dying of pancreatic cancer, and he decides to force his father to confront what he did to Joe Castle. Interestingly, the novel’s most fully formed character is Warren, and while the narrative and settings are solid, the story drifts toward a somewhat unsatisfying, perhaps too easy, conclusion.     A reconciliation story, Hallmark style.

Pub Date: April 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-53607-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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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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