A dazzling collection of literary fantasy with never a dull moment.

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STORIES TO SING IN THE DARK

Ghosts, space travel, and murderous movie censors are among the obstacles to gay love in these phantasmagoric tales.

In his first short story collection, Bright (co-author: Between the Lines, 2019) mixes strands of magical realism, SF, steampunk, noir, gothic horror, and homages to literary classics, filtering it all through a gay sensibility. These tales are boldly imaginative: A new hire at a cosmic library indexes lost works recovered by time-traveling collectors—never finished novels, a teenager’s poetry jottings, books burned by Nazis—and begins an affair with French writer Jean Genet; a scientist in a seedy Los Angeles applies his anti-gravity technology to a string of lovers; a modern-day Dorian Gray moves uninfected and forever young through San Francisco’s AIDS epidemic while his partners die off. In a rollicking takeoff on the children’s book The Wind in the Willows, a tough-talking rat, mole, badger, and gender-bending toad ricochet through a furry criminal underworld. In other inventive tales, a man realizes that he is the stereotypical tragic gay character in an Edwardian period movie whose other characters panic when he declines to commit suicide as scripted; the lesbian concubines of a Chinese empress travel in her tomb on a steam-powered voyage to a distant planet—and consider cannibalism when the food runs out; and a tomb raider and her brothel madam daughter hitch a ride on an airship and dodge British soldiers and zombies to purloin a pharaoh’s soul. A striking concluding novella finds an Englishman accompanying his lover to a shadowy family manse in Germany, where he unearths a past of perverted cruelty. Bright combines vigorous narratives with prose that is atmospheric, slyly humorous, and saturated with evocative imagery. (“If my phantom watchers in the windows opposite are looking, they will see us as we rise into the sky, one man clinging tight to another as they ascend like balloons that have slipped from your grasp, until the atmosphere becomes rarefied and thin, and breath freezes before our faces.”) The result is a wildly entertaining set of yarns that combine thrills with soulful reflection.

A dazzling collection of literary fantasy with never a dull moment.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59021-704-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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