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PEOPLE WILL TALK

The tragicomic accidental death of omnipotent New York gossip columnist Lolly Pines sets in motion a cheerful scramble for control of her column, access to her sources, and knowledge of the secrets that made her so powerful. The first contender for Lolly's throne is her assistant, Kick Butler, still sweet-tempered despite a disillusioning romance with novelist Lionel Maltby (a user if ever there was one) and the repeated rejections by Fifteen Minutes editor Fedalia Null that landed Kick on Lolly's payroll. Her principal competition is Baby Bayer, a second-string gossiper for the tabloid New York Courier who's sleeping her way up from Courier editor Joe Stone to Lolly's lawyer, Irving Fourbraz. Baby, perhaps the only character in contemporary American fiction who can unzip a man's fly with her toes, doesn't care that her burning-sheets affair with Fourbraz is depriving his wife, Neeva, of affection, trust, and the getaway money her mother left her. As Kick, Baby, and Neeva, like early amphibians, struggle up through swamps of foul men to the freedom of a feminist shore, former food columnist Georgina Dyson, wife of the Courier's publisher, is in danger of suffocating on dry land from the uxorious ministrations of Tanner Dyson, who can't help milking the publicity machine to insure that her every attempt at independence is successful. While Kick and Baby merrily battle each other for men, power, and publicity—a TV star's defenestration of his female companion in the opening pages turns into an endlessly fertile source of headlines—there's room for a million subplots, naughty bits, and flashbacks showing you exactly how they all got to be that way, before everybody (yes, everybody) finally hunkers down to live happily ever after. Like Madame Cleo's Girls (1992), nonstop connivance without a mean bone in its body: a Mister Rogers production of Tosca.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-77669-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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