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MONDO BARBIE

Poems, stories, and fantasies featuring the queen of American dolls that, all together, pack more of a punch than one might expect—a funny, irreverent, and sometimes shocking look at Barbie's function as national icon. She was stripped, decapitated, and buried alive. She was thrown against the wall in temper-tantrum sessions, mashed and twisted during bouts of masturbation, fearfully studied for long, angst-filled moments of teenaged sexual confusion. In this wide- ranging group of meditations on America's favorite plastic blond, the difference between real people and the super-artificial ideal stands out in stark, funny relief, and Barbie's serenely smiling silence plays effectively against the authors' hurried, confessional prose. In ``A Real Doll,'' A.M. Homes tells of a young boy who ``dated'' his sister's Barbie, stealing her from her place beside dorky Ken on his sister's dresser, muttering erotic phrases in her ear, then abruptly dumping her when she grew unattractively lusty. An excerpt from Kathryn Harrison's novel Thicker Than Water describes a young girl's tour of a Mattel toy factory, where enormous black women jam and twist thousands of Barbie heads onto plastic necks before tossing them onto a conveyor belt. ``Twelve- Step Barbie,'' by Richard Grayson, evokes a middle-aged, post- success Barbie trying to make it through a spirit-deadening day. In Denise Duhamel's poem ``Kinky,'' Barbie and Ken play at switching sex roles and clothes. And in Julia Alvarez's ``Floor Show,'' one of the more memorable stories here, the young daughter of political refugees slyly expresses her rage and resentment through a lovely, newly purchased doll. Remarkable for its emphasis on sexual experimentation, homosexuality, dysfunctional family situations, and other so-called ``deviant'' environments, the collection cleverly plays up, via selection as well as substance, Barbie's bizarre, surreally ``perfect'' presence in a wildly nonconforming world. More intriguing than it might have been—an unusually entertaining collection.

Pub Date: March 22, 1993

ISBN: 0-312-08848-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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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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