CLOSING TIME

THE SEQUEL TO CATCH-22

The long-unawaited sequel to an American classic. In 1961 Heller published Catch-22, a viciously antiwar novel about a group of young American bombers in WW II. It was a tight, brutal assault on the military mindset, bureaucratic logic, and the ruthlessness of capitalism. In an act of absurdity worthy of Catch- 22, Heller has written a sequel to a novel that needed no sequel. Yossarian is once again in the hospital. This time, he's 68 and in Manhattan. He is still after the nurses, and Chaplain Tappman again pays him a surprise visit. Yossarian is now a consultant for Milo Minderbinder and his defense contracting company. The chaplain disappears after the government (and Milo) learn that his body is inexplicably producing heavy water. The nation is led by a trigger- happy Dan Quaylelike president, and there is a secret network of government tunnels under the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Yossarian stumbles down below, where he finds a massive doomsday cellar connected (literally) to hell. In hell he finds a pantheon of dead writers and a reconstructed turn-of-the-century Coney Island. However, this semi-interesting plot is not the main story. Instead, Heller spends most of the time kvetching about getting old and dying. Hardly any of the old, interesting characters make appearances (Orr gets a paragraph), and those who do, like Lew and Sammy, have nothing to do with the plot and no interaction with Yossarian. The only connection to the original is that in a few places Heller sets up similar situations and dialogue to show that capitalism and the military mindset are still the same. But by naming a character Dr. Strangelove, Heller is beating a very tired horse. A line aimed at Yossarian applies to Heller as well: ``You sound so bitter these days. You used to be funnier.'' Be content with the original and pretend the sequel never happened. (First printing of 200,000; first serial to Playboy; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-74604-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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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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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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