THE COLLECTED STORIES OF LOUIS AUCHINCLOSS

This comprehensive selection of Auchincloss's short fiction couldn't be better timed. With critical taste leaning away from slick minimalism and neo-proletarian fiction, perhaps there's finally room for a true expansionist among the canonized story writers. Spanning more than 40 years, this collection attests to Auchincloss's durable talents: flawless prose, keen social observation, and a refined moral sensibility. The compromises between society and the individual, art and commerce, ego and restraint all figure into his finest fictions. Arranged chronologically, the 19 selections together suggest the author's profound sense of American history, with all of its political and social eruptions. He seems to have emerged as a writer fully formed, since the earliest pieces here (``Maud'' and ``Greg's Peg'') prove as supple and graceful as his most recent, which include choice work from Three Lives (1993) and Tales of Yesteryear (1994). No longer lost among the bulk of his out-of-print books are some of his very best stories, among them three linked tales about a major Manhattan law firm (``The Colonel's Foundation,'' ``The Mavericks,'' and ``The Single Reader'') that chronicle vanity and ambition at the profession's highest levels. Auchincloss's ambivalence about the ``Great World'' (as he calls it) of Wall Street and New York society comes through vividly in two mid-career stories: ``Billy and the Gargoyles'' highlights the attractions and repulsions of conformist behavior at a New England boys' school; ``The Gemlike Flame,'' perhaps his masterpiece, is a hypnotic, strangely oedipal tale of romantic egoists in Venice. Auchincloss schools us in all the social differences we're taught don't exist. At the same time, his work reflects our collective loss of soul and the corrupting power of political and social resentment. Time and again, he implicates his narrators in the fate of his protagonists- -one of many sure signs that we're in the presence of a subtle master. Further proof, if any is needed, that Auchincloss ranks among the best in American literature.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-71039-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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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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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

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