These stories can be challenging, but at their best, they can be revelatory, and they sometimes end on haunting notes.


The stories in this collection use daring, sometimes-fragmented structures to examine bleak moments in American history—and help trace the effects of those moments to the present day.

Keene divides his book into three sections, “Counternarratives,” “Encounternarratives,” and “Counternarrative”; the 13 stories range in length and style, from the brief and pastoral to the sprawling and collagelike, but they share two overarching concerns: a willingness to experiment with language and a tactile sense of history. The longest is “Gloss on a History of Roman Catholics in the Early American Republic, 1790-1825; Or The Strange History of Our Lady of the Sorrows”—several of the stories have titles that suggest academia—which begins in a fairly dry, historical vein. Over the course of the novella, however, the narrative becomes fractured, shifting from third person to first person and back and incorporating dialogue and found documents. It’s dizzying at times, but the story's handling of religious life and the era’s horrific racism becomes fuller as a result. “The Aeronauts,” which begins in 1861, is more straightforwardly told but finds a similar tension between its protagonist's scientific pursuits and hot air ballooning and the societal strife that surrounds him. Over the course of the book, the stories slowly advance toward the present day, and Keene uses different techniques throughout. At one point, in “Cold,” a character is told, “you have four or five different polyrhythms running concurrently, no man can play this.” It reads like a metafictional nod to Keene’s own experimental tendencies.

These stories can be challenging, but at their best, they can be revelatory, and they sometimes end on haunting notes.

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2434-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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 first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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