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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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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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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