HOW TO PAINT SUNLIGHT

NEW POEMS

Varied and appealing, despite a shaky start.

Ferlinghetti has made his mark on contemporary poetry not just as the author of A Coney Island of the Mind (which has sold nearly a million copies since its publication in 1956), but as one of the founders of San Francisco’s City Lights bookstore and, under its City Lights imprint, first publisher of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Recently, he has turned some of his attention to painting, a pursuit reflected in his new collection’s title and the verses of its first section. Alas, these initial poems are dull, repetitive, and monochromatic to a fault. Things improve as the author revisits his native New York and wanders amiably through Central Park, MoMA, the Public Library (oddly represented by the denizens of its men’s room), and (in the touching “Journal Notes Turning into a Poem”) the Yonkers home in which he was born. His three elegies for Ginsberg are equally moving. Like his late friend, he evokes Whitman (“Across Atlantic / Across Manhattan / Across great Hudson / into the heart of America / My heart is racing now”) and drums up some of the requisite Beat energy and cynicism in poems like “First, the News” (“We fought Chevron’s war / Your heart in a flower / pales the dawn”). Although Ferlinghetti portrays a country in decline, likening America to Rome before the fall, tenderness and humor also abound. “Appearances of the Angel in Ohio” is wonderful and strange (one “gets in a chariot / in the Handicapped Parking zone / and takes off in circles / into the evening sky”), while the ranting “Blind Poet” is an instant classic for the spoken-word set.

Varied and appealing, despite a shaky start.

Pub Date: April 27, 2001

ISBN: 0-8112-1463-X

Page Count: 128

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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