Unrefined but infectious, like a barely legal high.

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All The Talk Is Dead

Two aspiring rock musicians think that the way to success is for one of them to fake his own death, then capitalize on the phony tragedy.

In his mid-20s, Joel Wilson works as a bellhop at a Sydney hotel, where he hooks up with slightly older Wade Farley, a lobby pianist, to form a rock band. But to Joel, this is only a means to an end, as he really sees himself as a filmmaker. Unable to get a recording contract, Joel and Wade hatch a scheme: They’ll go to New York, where they’ll fake Joel’s death and turn that tragedy into a launch pad for their music. Once the deed is done, Joel travels to Montreal, where he takes on an assumed name. Time passes, and Joel hears nothing from Wade. Then, one day, he turns on the radio and hears one of his songs being played as part of a tribute album put together in his memory. It looks like the scheme worked, and Wade has been living it up in New York while Joel has been on the down low in Montreal. The ensuing complications, however, humorously expose the dark underbelly of fame in the music business. The premise isn’t entirely original, and the machinations of how Joel and Wade pull off their scam are a little on the sketchy side, but Joel’s misadventures in three different cities are hilariously rendered. He and Wade fit into the pantheon of great losers, the author having a Charles Portis–like gift for writing about dim bulbs without condescending to them. The book’s filled with laugh-out-loud lines and dialogue, more than compensating for any flaws in terms of story logic or narrative cohesion, making for a memorable trip through the demimonde of wannabe rock stars.

Unrefined but infectious, like a barely legal high. 

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2009

ISBN: 978-1448623846

Page Count: 234

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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