WHAT GOD WANTS

A German native and Australian author evokes the rich texture of modern-day Jewish-Australian life in these 16 engagingly down- to-earth tales—first published in Australia, where they won the 1992 National Steel Award, and Brett's first collection to be published here. In ``Moishe Zimmerman's Wife,'' 38-year-old Ruthie Brot succumbs to decades of sexual frustration by having an affair with Abe Lipshitz, a married man passed along by a fellow aerobics student. Not far down the road, in ``Something Shocking,'' adultery works a more evil magic on one of Ruthie's sisters-in-law, Susan Silver, who reacts to her own husband's extramarital affair by painting ``My husband is schtooping a shikse'' across the front of their house. Other members of Ruthie's tightknit Melbourne circle have their own, equally all-encompassing stories, most highlighting the tension between the Jewish past and present and each getting fair exposure here. These include, in ``Half-There,'' the obsession of Ruthie's other sister-in-law, Golda Goldenfein, with her experience as the daughter of concentration camp survivors; in ``What God Wants,'' Ruthie's father's announcement that his much younger Filipino wife is going to have a child; and, in ``Moving Meals,'' Abe's wife's frantic efforts to lose herself in volunteer work until her husband's love affair has run its course. As the months pass, few here are ever actually abandoned, though many temporarily stray, while gossip is energetically circulated via telephone calls, lunches, and the all-important weekly women's gin rummy game. Just when the tales of bed-hopping and scandal- mongering begin to wear on the soul, one of the more thoughtful protagonists, mildly neurotic Susan Cohen, flies off to New York with her family, where her sudden solitude allows for welcome depth and texture after the chattier Melbourne stories. Brett's abrupt, unadorned style can be off-putting, but, as with many of her characters, one grows fond in the end. Sketches throughout by David Rankin, the author's husband.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-55972-193-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1993

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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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