A quiet, tender portrait of a literary giant.

THE LAST DAYS OF OSCAR WILDE

The publicly disgraced poet Oscar Wilde deals with the emotional aftermath of scandal.

It is Paris in the fall of 1899. The once-famous and now-infamous Oscar Wilde is two years out of a two-year jail sentence for “gross indecency” with men. Unable to live in England in the wake of the scandal, Wilde has retreated to Paris, and he intuits that he has very little time left to live, though he is only in his mid-40s. In these, the last months of his life, Wilde negotiates a series of complicated relationships with the few loyal friends that remain to him—Robert Ross, an ex-lover who provides Wilde with income; Frank Harris, an Irish magazine man living in the south of France; Maurice Gilbert, Wilde’s soldier-lover; Reggie Turner, a travel companion; and Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, Wilde’s “virtual spouse,” whose father initiated the charges against him and who has also ended up in Paris, seemingly to finish stomping on Wilde’s bruised heart. Wilde bounces around France and occasionally elsewhere in Europe with these men, seizing at moments of pleasure and beauty while also being stricken by the fresh traumas of his past. Vanderslice (Island Fog, 2014, etc.) has tremendous ambition here: not only must he weave a story that essentially has no plot and an inevitable climax in Wilde’s death, he must also put words into the mouth of one of history’s most clever wielders of the bon mot. Vanderslice’s Wilde is not the quippy, theatrical figure a reader might expect. He’s wry and sensitive and selfish, as complex certainly as the real Wilde must have been. And although the book is mostly conversation and little action, readers are still swept along by a desire to see Wilde come to some sort of much-deserved peace.

A quiet, tender portrait of a literary giant.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9964850-9-8

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Burlesque Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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