An amusing work, improved by the irresistible talking dogs.


In Markoe’s latest comic novel (Walking in Circles Before Lying Down, 2006, etc.), a 47-year-old California dude learns some life lessons—mostly from his pet.

Handyman/housesitter Gil has come to terms with his lack of ambition. And why not? He has the run of a Malibu estate when the owners are away and a casual relationship with hippie Sara, and the time always seems right for a beer. To top it off, Gil has just acquired an interesting skill: He can communicate with his dogs. The how and why of this miracle is quickly passed over, but never mind, because by page seven the four dogs are full-blown characters. Much of the novel’s comedy comes from alpha dog Jimmy, who gives the equivalent of Tony Robbins’ self-actualizing seminars to neighborhood pooches. On love, Jimmy holds forth: “It’s the big emotion behind snack time…It’s the reason why someone will take you for a walk.” So enlightening is his lecture “Edible or Inedible?” that Gil begins a blog for Jimmy. But Jimmy’s newfound fan base means nothing. He is reeling from the discovery that Gil is not his biological father and demands to meet his birthmother Gypsy, now living with Gil’s ex-wife Eden. Gil is all about maintaining the status quo, but everything changes when he has to move out of his house for a few weeks. Sara thinks this will be a perfect time for them to improve their relationship (couples counseling is involved), but after a few claustrophobic days he moves into Eden’s guesthouse, hired by her new husband Chad to renovate the place. Sara is livid; Jimmy is thrilled to be back with his “real” family; Chad makes Gil his new confidant; and the slightly evil Eden convinces Gil that conjugal rights extend to exes. It’s only when catastrophe hits that Gil begins to admit what a screw-up he’s been and hopes it’s not too late to save everything he loves.

An amusing work, improved by the irresistible talking dogs.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-345-50020-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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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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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