ARE YOU LAUGHING AT ME?

A disaster-prone adventurer gets into various predicaments at home in British Columbia and the far-flung locales of Hawaii, Costa Rica and Mexico in Sears’ debut memoir.

Sears doesn’t personally seem to have much of an interest in travel but his friends and wife Pat do. Thus, Sears gets dragged or coaxed along on all kinds of adventures, which, more often than not, involve a series of minor, everyday inconveniences. This, perhaps, is not the best fodder for a 300-page collection of personal essays. The author’s prose is fairly straightforward, very clever and always personable, and despite a tendency to get carried away with hokey jokes, the book exhibits a decent sense of structure and pace. In Sears, readers find a very likable narrator who comes across as an eccentric uncle with a penchant for mischief. The stories are conversational and conspiratorially related, as Sears chugs along gamely in the face of mounting obstacles while smarting off to Pat, ogling leggy island women and accidentally ingesting copious amounts of seawater. Unfortunately, there is only so much humor that can be wrung out of swallowing seawater, backaches and chafing. Sears does have plenty of material to work with from a lifetime of travel but often it’s not as captivating as readers may wish. For example, if Sears had actually encountered an enraged giant gorilla in the wilds of Costa Rica, as opposed to one of the ubiquitous howler monkeys found there, that might account for the terror the author recounts experiencing. Instead, his panic-stricken reaction is good for a laugh but doesn’t rise above the level of an interesting anecdote. With few notable exceptions, such as Sears’ touching remembrance of a deceased friend, that’s too often the case with the essays found herein. In this chronicle of humorous adventuring, Sears could use more adventure. 

 

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1463598839

Page Count: 314

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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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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