A poignant parody of media blather, modern romance, and mangled justice, with sci-fi accents.

Dystortions: 100 Hues of Purple


A novel explores extraterrestrial love in a topsy-turvy world.

In her latest book, Pell (Who’s Your Daddy, Baby?, 2012) graduates from romantic satire to sci-fi (with a healthy dose of romantic satire). Amethyst Adele “Addy” McCrory is a lonely, brilliant, brassy ex–TV reporter with a murder rap and an appointment with an electric chair named Old Sparkey. Prior to the gunplay that landed her behind bars, Addy and a hunky lawyer named Sean Michael O’Malibul had shared “heart-pumping lust, combined with mind-melding intellect.” But all is not right in their world in 2503 “on a planet called Malaprop, strikingly similar to a planet Malapropians would come to know through garbled, distorted radio transmissions as Hearth.” Malaprop is a backward world, full of sideways slogans, a retrograde justice system, tribes at war, and a scarifying history. It is a world, in other words, very much like Earth. There, Addy muses—for roughly 100 pages—on the tangled histories of Malaprop and Hearth (and Hearth’s holy book, an amusingly and disturbingly garbled version of Earth’s own sacred texts called The Word: The Book of Nirvana, a popular recording of which was first performed by “the punkish unfamiliar young apostle Kurt”). As with most histories, alternative histories, or historical satires, details pile up here but characters don’t stick around. Once readers reach the present, roughly halfway through the novel, they learn why Addy has been imprisoned. They are told of Mandy MacBeth, she of the “double chin that collapsed into her neck and could flatten the sex drive of any normal healthy male,” her persecution of Addy, her lust for Sean, and the comeuppance she eventually receives. The novel is enormously fun to read, filled with jokes and wry asides about the recognizable madness of a planet so like Earth. The levels of reality are so tangled here that readers trying to puzzle out just what happens at the end, when Addy may or may not have the chance at a new life, may be mildly frustrated by the deliberate ambiguity of the closing pages. But for Pell, plot was never the point: this is a wide-ranging satire, not a narrowly focused one, and the pleasure of the author’s voice—combined with the bounty of her imagination—makes the moments reading this book feel like time well spent.

A poignant parody of media blather, modern romance, and mangled justice, with sci-fi accents. 

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61296-731-8

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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 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

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