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FROM THE YEAR INFINITY

Modernist, random sci-fi weirdness seemingly beamed in from the James Joyce/William S. Burroughs/Last Words of Dutch Schultz...

A godlike being who is an interplanetary Earth ambassador and a time traveler recalls his manifold adventures saving the cosmos in this debut novel.

At age 4, the supernatural entity named Lewis must take on human mentality and winds up working in a Connecticut office. Even so, his impressive IQ (described as the fourth highest ever) draws the attention of the U.S. Navy and Colin Powell. Lewis not only serves in the Navy, but is also appointed an Earth representative for the United Planetary Federation, even though assassinations disrupt the meetings—and in the remote future (or past), civilizations rise and fall and threats are fought (or will be). Because Lewis marked his apotheosis by time-traveling to infinity, the fabric of reality has started to come undone. In fixing it, he meets Father Time (who really exists). Lewis embarks on epic exploits in his seven other immortal lifetimes. Viewers of TV’s Doctor Who may enjoy the way Feinland, a poet, manages to make this highly experimental piece bigger on the inside than the outside—just like the time machine/spacecraft TARDIS. In a slim 109 pages, he info-dumps terabytes of sci-fi jargon; alphanumerics and acronyms; author references/genre shoutouts (John Scalzi); invented words (“cataclypse”); poetry; complex, technical manual-style instructions; and metaphysical musings. It’s the epistle of a sort of god or demigod who, while born on Earth, is actually of Olympus lineage (though Jesus crosses his path, as do the devil, Buddha, and Sitting Bull). When the narrator speaks of seeing psychiatrists and getting a regimen of psychotropics, it begs the question of whether to interpret any of this literally or as the artfully described schizoid ravings of a lunatic savant off his meds: “From my office which was my enterprise, bridge command; sort from my helm..Or was enterprise is now plastic and the universally Messianic deed be done. Paradise lost be found, it’s heavenly response. Kingdom come and the last eternal link be round, that link being physically the mild core (plutonium 181) but not energy.”

Modernist, random sci-fi weirdness seemingly beamed in from the James Joyce/William S. Burroughs/Last Words of Dutch Schultz outer-asteroid field.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4327-9677-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Outskirts

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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