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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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