A collection of heartfelt, deftly composed stories about the human condition.

NOT EVERYONE IS SPECIAL

Fifteen sharp and cutting short stories from Austin-based writer Denslow.

Denslow opens his debut collection by quoting a Tom Waits song, so it’s no surprise the characters within resemble the kinds of affable, sometimes-laughable sad sacks and beautiful losers you find in American fiction from Steinbeck to Bukowski. The opener, “Too Late for a Lot of Things,” resembles Sedaris’ infamous “Santaland Diaries,” if the smallish person at Santa’s Workshop were meaner and tormented by heartland hicks instead. Denslow clearly likes flash fiction, and you find it in ultrashort pieces like “My Particular Tumor,” which recalls the narrator’s obsession with his organs in Palahniuk’s Fight Club, and “Bio,” which chronicles the sad bylines of a writer in a failing marriage. Palahniuk’s underground echoes again in “Punch,” which imagines that citizens are given a pair of federally mandated vouchers to legally pummel someone every now and again. The stories here are deeply grounded in everyday life, mostly among people who aren’t making very much of their days, but Denslow allows a touch of magical realism every now and again. In “Proximity,” our leading man can teleport. “It just hurts like a bitch,” though. Meanwhile in “Dorian Vandercleef," a writer discovers that the subject of his novel is in fact writing the same book—in the first person. Finally, in the title story, a troubled youngster in a strange institute yearns to discover his secret power. Elsewhere, the specter of death hangs over stories in ways both morbid and morbidly funny. The narrator of “Mousetrap” gives his running monologue of suicidal thoughts before an ironic accident saves his life. Another guy attends the funeral of a friend, albeit in hopes of getting laid. When a best friend dies in “Extra Ticket,” the survivor doesn’t know how to process his grief.

A collection of heartfelt, deftly composed stories about the human condition.

Pub Date: March 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-7328686-2-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: 7.13 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more