A mixed bag of four short pieces featuring two to savor and two to skim.


Another selection of stories from Raffetto (The Girl from Summer and Other Stories, 2013).

This blend of fact, fiction and commentary consists of four short pieces: “Three A.M.,” “Inside Orwell,” “The Selection of ’92” and “The Georges.” The first tackles the troubled but fascinating union of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, sparked by the narrator’s relationship with a girl who reminded him of Zelda. The narrator contrasts Scott Fitzgerald with George Orwell, who “was not seduced by bright shiny things.” He tells of how the Fitzgeralds led a life of parties, arguments and excesses, fueled by alcohol and money woes; Zelda was drawn to writing and ballet, but mental illness prevailed, and she met a cruel end at a sanatorium in Asheville, North Carolina. The second piece concerns Orwell, a shrewd political observer, with a brief aside on the narrator’s background, and a book he published to positive reviews that failed to generate substantial sales. Raffeto writes of Orwell’s life-altering experiences in the Spanish Civil War and how he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four on his deathbed. The first two pieces are cohesive, focused and absorbing. The book falters in the third, set in the days preceding the 1992 presidential election, with Democrat Alex and Republican Brad as competing copier salesmen. Alex’s relationship with an ex-girlfriend is intriguing, but his squabbles with Brad don’t pack the punch of the Fitzgerald or Orwell stories. The piece seems designed to favor one candidate and party over the other. The final piece is the weakest: an essay concerning Orwell and George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin. It links Zimmerman’s attitudes with those of President George W. Bush (“liar and lunatic”) and compares Orwellian Newspeak to Fox News’ justifications of Zimmerman’s actions. It includes the author’s pointed interjections about the mishandling of the case; for example, he calls the killing of Trayvon Martin “another lynching.” The essay brims with righteous indignation and hindsight, but this diminishes its overall impact.

A mixed bag of four short pieces featuring two to savor and two to skim.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692256404

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Noovella.com

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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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