CHILDREN OF ALBION ROVERS

AN ANTHOLOGY OF NEW SCOTTISH WRITING

Stories by six young writers, the cream of the contemporary Scottish Beats crop, are anthologized here in a raw display of life on the edge. An excerpt from a 1991 novel by Alan Warner, here titled ``After the Vision,'' is the most successful of the lot, describing one man's long voyage home after a rave, a journey that touches bottom when he meets a long-lost mate who enthuses over his job at a crematorium, then begins slowly to rise when he meets two women who take him to their friend, who in turn offers him a couch for a much-needed night's sleep. Also funny and compelling is ``The Brown Pint of Courage,'' by James Meek, in which three bottom-rung members of Edinburgh's parking police force indulge in mayhem and coercion on the job—one even falling in love on his lunch break with a woman who shares his passion for Thomas Carlyle—before the good times come to an end in spectacular fashion. Other interesting stories by Laura J. Hird and Paul Reekie involve a teacher's nightlong seduction of his 16-year-old student, which doesn't go quite as he planned (``The Dilating Pupil''), and a chronicle of a generation finding its way in the world, narrated by a man recovering from burns received while sitting on a toilet that ignited (``Submission''). The most touted piece here, however, proves disappointing: Irvine Welsh's sci-fi spoof involving aliens and their command of Scots English (``The Rosewell Incident''), has a few laughs but not much else. The vision of Scottish life created by these six voices is remarkably consistent, vital, and unyieldingly tough-minded, but it's too early to say if these promising young writers will mature into major ones, or if they'll gain much of a foothold on these shores.

Pub Date: June 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-87951-775-1

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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