Ignoring part six, Bailey’s book will remind readers of human connectivity, while it frightens and entertains.

PALINDROME HANNAH

A creative effort takes horror to new heights in well-paced, semi-interconnected stories.

  Novelist, short story author and poet Bailey’s (Phoenix Rose, 2009) first novel, a finalist in the Independent Publisher Book Awards for horror fiction, is contemporary literary horror, an energizing departure from gothic or romantic pastiche and genre favorites of witches, creatures and demonic spirits. Bailey’s horror is family drama, where both compassionate and abusive relationships anchor characters in environments that are at best uncertain and often harrowing and cruel. In unusually symbolic prose that may attract or repel genre enthusiasts, the book’s six parts tell of a young father’s struggle with suicide, the violent source of a couple’s marital dysfunction, superlative child abuse in an orphanage, a psychiatrist treating a paranormal patient and school-aged friends thwarting a bully. The book’s strengths are its suspense, the subtle way the narratives connect through chance and the peripheral appearance of a young woman named Julie. Bailey has a good sense of timing and when plot should accelerate; the suspense is palpable and enjoyable, even when the story is gruesome. Despite the different situations of his characters, most voices come across as vaguely post-adolescent and male—impetuous, reactionary and overly concerned with sex and bodily functions. There’s a lot of talk of bed-wetting and toned, lascivious young women like Julie, whose name also appears in emboldened text throughout the book. The reader is intended to pull a sixth story, that of Julie and her daughter, “Palindrome Hannah,” from this text. However, this is nearly impossible, as the text is a pronoun-heavy syntactical forest, with ideas continuing across tens of pages. Bailey’s literary creativity is an exciting turn for the genre, but it bears too heavily on the book. Infusing a story with palindromes can be flashy in short form, but drawn-out in a novel, it feels washed out and contributes little to the storytelling. In naming his book after a thin plot device and thinner character, Bailey seems to not know his own strengths.  

Ignoring part six, Bailey’s book will remind readers of human connectivity, while it frightens and entertains.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466243750

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

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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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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

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