MUSEUMS AND WOMEN AND OTHER STORIES

The Updike short story has always been a limited abstract of experience — perhaps only a passing reflection of it — rarely innovative and often an echo chamber of the novels. There is a shiny impermanence here (not to be underestimated — it is so seductive) and change, loss and dissolution surface through the regret-tinted retrospect. Lovely bygones of the '50's — those fat fifties ("When Everyone was Pregnant") before it all changed as "our babies drive cars, push pot. . .riot for peace, eat macrobiotic" and threaten like those youngsters ("The Hillies") "the foundations of our lives." That is also the generation of "I Will Not Let Thee Go" or "The Orphaned Swimming Pool" (partings of one kind or another) or the five concluding stories about the Maples and the sexual dissonance of their marriage. Here we are closest to the Updike of Couples and the Updike who commented elsewhere that "the bourgeois novel is inherently erotic, just as the basic unit of bourgeois order — the family unit built upon the marriage contract — is erotic." Then there are all those "lives not come to anything" — e.g. "The Witnesses" or "I Am Dying, Egypt, Dying" in which "the world was his but slid through him" — a well-traveled, well-heeled youngish man. There are a few Tarbox stories; a group entitled Other Modes which includes the incantatory "Sea's Green Sameness," two which are commentaries, and five which ate really showcase performances. The title story is a marvelous synchronization of associations and convergences and here Updike is at his letter, word and image-perfect best.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1972

ISBN: 0394747623

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1972

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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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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