Overall, a highly talented lineup—and well worth the asking price.


Eighty-six years, another twenty stories: New series editor Furman, along with judges David Guterson, Diane Johnson, and Jennifer Egan, presents this year’s roundup of prize tales, ranging from the traditional to the experimental, though almost all taking aim at the human heart.

“There is a tendency in short ficion—I feel it when writing myself—to conclude and resolve,” says Egan, but the stories she helped choose seem bonded by a lack of that very tendency. There are as many new names here as familiar ones, among the latter are A.S. Byatt, William Trevor, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Evan S. Connell, William Kittredge, and Tim O’Brien. Standouts include Edith Pearlman’s “The Story,” in which a story of resistance accompanies one course of an annual dinner among friends, this time held at a new restaurant that, like the tale, recalls a different era; Ann Harleman’s “Meanwhile,” a heartbreakingly fragmented account—memos, flyers, crossword puzzles—of a couple trying to save love as one of them descends into the pit of multiple sclerosis; Douglas Light’s “Three Days. A Month. More,” a poetic account of two young Puerto Rican girls contemplating their heritage and overdue bills as they live alone in the apartment their mother has abandoned; an installment from Alice Munro (“Fathers”) about a young man’s experience with a neighbor girl’s hatred of her father and what this tells him of his own father; and the best of the bunch, Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams,” a borderline novella of a man’s preindustrial life lived entirely in an apocryphal panhandle of northern Idaho. You get the sense that this latest volume, judging from the range of sources sometimes very small (The Idaho Review, Alaska Quarterly Review), is a much better sampling of literature from a single year than usual.

Overall, a highly talented lineup—and well worth the asking price.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-3131-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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