Only Thomas Harris does it more stylishly.

PSYCHOPATH

Return of heroic alcoholic Frank Clevenger, forensic psychiatrist.

Clevenger was first met in full-blooming Denial (1997), wherein he kept gulping Scotch, bought coke on borrowed money, bought sex at nude dance bars, couldn’t pay his bills, hit up his mother for drug money, gambled, drove drunk, dug S&M. Denial ended with Clevenger still deluded. Compulsion (2002) found him trying to shake his demons while analyzing an infanticide on Nantucket. Ablow, himself a forensic psychologist, now takes a page from Hannibal Lecter: Clevenger this time out faces his mirror image, a demonically brilliant psychiatrist turned serial killer. In the stunning opening scene, Dr. Jonah Wrens drives his BMW along Route 90 outside Rome, New York, playing Mahler’s serene Tenth Symphony, thinking of Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up, and searching for a highway victim to seduce into soul-warmth before he razors open the victim’s carotids and orgasms while hugging the victim as his or her life ebbs away. Jonah leaves 14 bodies razored across 14 states before the FBI calls in Clevenger for analysis of the killer’s motives and way of working. Jonah is a traveling psychiatrist for kids severely impaired by mental illness and spends about six weeks at each hospital he attends. He’s now at Canaan (Vermont) Memorial’s low-socioeconomic children’s locked psychiatric unit, which has about 25 damaged kids for him to suck dry of their pains, as he does all his highway victims. His fractured mind allows him entry into unthinkable regions and to drug himself with other people’s demons and escape his guilts. Meanwhile, Clevenger has his own problems raising Billy Bishop, his adopted, pot-selling 16-year-old once accused of the Nantucket infanticide. Still, he chooses to flush out the Highway Killer. The New York Times publishes a letter from Jonah asking for Clevenger’s help in a correspondence. While very successful with damaged kids, Jonah via Clevenger strives to free himself from evil. Everyone says it: He’s the nicest guy in the world.

Only Thomas Harris does it more stylishly.

Pub Date: July 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-26671-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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