MARRIAGES AND INFIDELITIES

A 'plot' is not fiction, as you know, but very real; it is the record of someone's brain, a trail like a snail's trail, sticky and shameful. . . ." And in these often abstract short stories, shame and guilt and the many deaths of personality sever those all-important connections between men and women as they pursue, flee from, and pursue again themselves and each other. The ideal of marriage, a metaphor of union, is the "sacred adventure" never achieved; and infidelity becomes an acknowledgment of the inevitability of doomed isolation and aridity. Love-making on the grass is blown about with Dixie cups and "small plastic spoons." And the woman is an "echo only of his shouts and cries," or those of other men. In "The Sacred Marriage," a dead writer's young wife confers his "divinity" on succeeding lovers; in another story, a fiancee of a dying man leaves the hospital to sleep with his disciple, in "Did You Ever Slip on Red Blood?" the killer of a hijacker searches for the erotic moment of his kill through becoming the lover of the girl who had absorbed the moment of death into her consciousness — "What was it like. . . . When it happened." But the attempt to remain intact is unreal, as in the chilling "The Children" in which a suburban housewife's bastion is ringed with incursions by dirt, strangers, and even the terrifying self-containment of her own children. In Miss Oates' feverish landscapes, the streets are crowded with phantoms seeking out victims, avengers, and those perfect unions which never come about. "You do not exist until you begin to run." Miss Oates in these stories approaches a mystic sin-dense vision in which the marital or adulterous bed is "crammed with people. . . all becoming each other. Becoming protoplasm," beneath the Celestial City. Commanding even if a few stories are only notebook exercises; all press forward into new ground.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 1972

ISBN: 0449237249

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Vanguard

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1972

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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