THE EVENT

The mind's freedom to invent and reshape reality is blunted by the dead weight of materialismin this sluggish metaphysical fantasy by the Argentine-born author of Nobody Nothing Never (1994), etc. In 1855, a Maltese-Italian magician and telepathist, Bianco, is exposed as a fake by a ``positivist cabal'' and forced to flee to the Argentine pampas. Endeavoring to become rich and reclaim his honor, Bianco condescends to involve himself with such material entities as building bricks, wire fencing, a cattle-wealthy doctor (Garay L¢pez), who agrees to become his business partner, and the beautiful young woman (Gina), initially involved with the doctor, who consents (for reasons not clearly revealed) to marry Bianco and assist his ongoing ``experiments in telepathic communication.'' The real world obtrudes upon this dreamer's hermetic sensibility in such forms as Gina's pregnancy, the contentious avarice that disfigures Garay L¢pez's privileged family, and a climactic outbreak of yellow fever. Bianco's preference for the world inside his own head finds expression in tediously reiterated (and seemingly arbitrary) abstractions, permitting the confused reader respite only when the focus shifts away from Saer's self-absorbed protagonist. The novel's pessimism is far more successfully incarnated in Gary L¢pez's urbane ``theatrical allegory...The Magi,'' an unwritten work whose deadpan premise is that no Christ child ever gets born in Bethlehem after all and life there goes on pretty much as usual. Saer's own novel, being about as uneventful as any can be, could use more of such subversive witand greater development of a fascinating subplot in which a half-breed deserter from the army fathers a large family, rapes his daughters, is murdered by his eldest son, and leaves among his survivors a mute, traumatized boy who somehow metamorphoses into a verse-speaking prophet. Here was the novel Saer didn't write. Only in such brief sequences does this soporific treatise shake itself awake and assume the welcome contours of living and breathing fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-85242-249-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1995

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 30


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 30


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Categories:

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

Categories:
Close Quickview