Half Hollywood horror story, half dippy relationship saga: about two thirds of a good book.


Pseudo-epistolary novel that veers madly from dull to insightful to some competent middle-ground: a collaboration between TV writer/humorist Markoe and ex-Wall of Voodoo member Prieboy.

Assuming this is loosely autobiographical, the Markoe (It’s My F***ing Birthday, 2002, etc.) stand-in is Lisa, a lonely writer who spends her days locked in a windowless room with a bunch of pasty, chubby, socially challenged men as they bang out scripts for a mediocre sitcom. Prieboy’s alter ego is Grant, a once well-known ’80s rocker whose career slump has picked up recently with the buzzy success of his new play, Tommy! (Lee!): The Musical (Prieboy, not coincidentally, wrote a musical called White Trash Wins Lotto). After the two briefly chat following a performance of the show, they exchange e-mails and their respective creative output (Lisa’s books, Grant’s music). Their e-meet-cute develops into a virtual friendship through their invention of the titular game, in which they exchange true stories of pain each suffered at the hands of a respective former boy/girlfriend and award points based on levels of humiliation achieved. For Lisa, this is a desperate lifeline, pretty much the only thing that keeps her going. Grant, while engaged in the game, is doing it more for entertainment’s sake (at first, anyhow), encouraged by his scenemaker girlfriend Winnie. She’s mostly interested in hearing Lisa’s stories about her ex, who just happens to be a megalomaniacal filmmaker currently interested in buying the rights to Grant’s musical. Grant’s segments are engaging, in an LA-insider sort of way, limning the delicate power plays and phantom gossip that make up the daily life of the city’s creative community. If only the tale hadn’t kept shifting back to Lisa, a dull creation as manipulative as she is spineless, who evokes some slight sympathy from the reader only because she’s not malicious like Winnie.

Half Hollywood horror story, half dippy relationship saga: about two thirds of a good book.

Pub Date: June 29, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-6076-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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