A history buff’s guilty pleasure, offering a behind-the-scenes peek into the world of a man whose impact on society lasts to...

J. P.

A historical novel that paints an intimate portrait of J.P. Morgan, U.S. banker, financier and philanthropist.

A seasoned author, Mooers (Pillar of Stories, 2013) delves into the personal life of a giant in the financial world. The novel is framed around Morgan as an elderly man reminiscing on his life, his memories serving as the vehicle by which readers come to understand how his experiences shaped him. Sensitive and vulnerable aren’t feelings often associated with this shrewd businessman, yet Mooers reminds readers that Morgan was pierced with mortal longings and pain just like everyone else—from never receiving enough affection from his father to losing a close friend and later a great love to consumption. His sentimentality even permeated his penchant for collecting art: Many years after losing his love, Amelia, Morgan discovered a painting that reminded him of her; he purchased it, hung it over his mantle and never told his wife why, only saying once to someone while looking at it, “Art is the closest thing we have in our world to the eternal.” In addition to his personal losses, Morgan struggled with acne rosacea rhinophyma, a disfiguring condition that haunted him into old age. Despite all this, he was immensely successful, and it is clear his touch on modern life was profound. He helped finance Thomas Edison’s “light” project and was at the forefront of the great industrial consolidations of his time, merging large steel and iron businesses. Mooers weaves this tale together by alternating among the present and various points in Morgan’s past—an engaging storytelling technique, but Mooers jumps time periods with abandon, making some transitions bumpy and others altogether jarring. He also adds a few too many details, stretching out scenes longer than necessary, and although he attempts to reveal a new side to Morgan, Mooers ultimately glosses over the banker’s generally gruff manner and the controversy that surrounded him, particularly how he used his power to manipulate the financial system for personal gain. Still, this novel offers a waltz with history and gives readers the seductive sense of being let in on Morgan’s private, intimate recollections.

A history buff’s guilty pleasure, offering a behind-the-scenes peek into the world of a man whose impact on society lasts to this day.

Pub Date: March 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0988648647

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Riverrun

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2014

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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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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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