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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?

more