Taylor (The Presence of Things Past, 1992) returns with stories that aim for the perfect nuance and control of his first volume but that, this time around, seem hungry for content. Taylor revealed himself master of deceptively quiet stories that, in approaching stillness, burst into subtle and radiant meanings. Here, though, his control of tone is weaker; lines trying for the casual (—Charlene had the biggest tits in school—) are merely out of character in stories that depend on a perfect surface and impeccably delicate touch (—I imagine the night. The night is just outside the living-room window—). Some stories—many as short as a page, even a paragraph—return again to Des Moines, where Taylor’s narrator lived before going to Europe after college; others take up details of apartment-building life in provincial France. The former are very slight, like leftovers missing the depth of mood that’s essential for Taylor’s kind of minimalism. —The O—Connell Sisters— prove their crabby nature by keeping the balls and frisbees that land on their lawn—and while the reader waits for resonance, it never comes. Bits about early loves flirt with a more subtle density but are offset by surface-only stories like —Blacky’s Story——anecdotes about a childhood dog. Among the best are the very shortest, like —Musette Disappears——little more, but perfectly so, than a haunting memory-image from childhood. Curiously, Taylor’s potentially greater strength emerges not in this direction but in the deadpan humor of some of his French pieces. The tales about eccentric neighbors remain, again, mainly anecdotal, seldom rising beyond character sketches. But the longish closing piece, —The Driver’s License,— though it still doesn—t deepen in character or mood, offers a poker-faced telling of the byzantine anomalies and Catch-22’s of obtaining a driver’s license in the land of the very curious Gauls that will, indeed, make you laugh. In all, a holding pattern for a talented author waiting for a subject.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-885266-53-7

Page Count: 130

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?