Of special interest to native Chicagoans, but will appeal to those who don’t mind keeping a scorecard of the many players.



Along its meandering way, this narrative details the inner workings of a longtime political machine.

Set in a fictionalized city strongly resembling Chicago, this action-packed novel reveals–and almost exults in–the municipality’s political corruption by tracing the reluctant rise of city Alderman Eamon DeValera Collins, more generally known as “the Chairman.” The novel chugs through the late 20th century, fueled by personal loyalty, behind-the-scenes reciprocity and just a little old-fashioned strong-arming. The Chairman is a career pol in the eighth ward whose sobriquet derives from his powerful and lucrative position as head of the city council’s zoning committee. An old-school backroom dealmaker in a city still ruled by monolithic machine politics, he’s set for life. But when the mayor is assassinated (apparently by organized crime, though no one seems eager to investigate too closely), a young reformer unexpectedly manages to get elected as his successor. The ensuing consequences–for the chairman and the city–take more than a decade to unfold, and the novel takes frequent detours to explore the nefarious infighting, nepotism and graft that motor the machine. But without being an apologia, the book also provides ample evidence of the machine’s efficiency, resilience and service to the public. Quinn, a journalist, provides a wealth of damning detail–both of the politicians’ shenanigans and the voters’ indifference, as long as their streets are safe and the city runs smoothly. What’s most interesting and original, though, is not the down-and-dirty politicking, but the discussion of how the machine adapts to changing times. These cagey bosses modernize their methods by courting the new populations taking over their old ethnic wards–here, African-Americans, Mexicans and gentrifiers replacing the Irish and Italians, among others–and encouraging their sons and daughters to earn fancy academic credentials. However, the book’s wealth of detail and concern for verisimilitude can sometimes bog down the action as the author retraces history to introduce a new character or digresses into anecdotes which may illustrate the city’s corruption, but don’t always further the plot.

Of special interest to native Chicagoans, but will appeal to those who don’t mind keeping a scorecard of the many players.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4392-5559-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2010

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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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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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