Luridly decorative in its trimmings, slapdash in its plotting, and ludicrously derivative.



Hemmingson, author of four erotic novels (not reviewed), spins a neo-noir tale in which everything happens—absolutely everything—except coitus.

Ever since he got fired from his San Diego firm and disbarred, Philip Lansdale has had too little to do. Every day after his wife Tina leaves their tract home for her job, he takes his son Matthew, a budding kindergarten pyromaniac, to school, then stays home with his toddler Jessica and wonders what’s going to happen next. The answer comes in the slinky person of Cassandra Payne, a neighbor with an unlimited supply of miniskirts that cover only the first few feet of her endless legs. Even before inviting the Paynes to a barbecue he’s talked Tina into hosting to get closer to the neighbors, Lansdale has been drooling over her in conversations with his drinking buddies, ex-cop Bryan Vaughn and part-time prof David Larson. And soon after the barbecue, which Cassandra attends stag, he finds himself leaving Tina asleep in bed so that he can peer into his neighbor’s window. Even without Lansdale’s constant prophecies of doom (“Had I known how sickening and utterly disturbed my behavior would eventually become, I would’ve stopped myself right then and there”), it would be obvious that his fixation on Cassandra can’t end well. What Hemmingson brings to this familiar story is a couple of spectacularly nasty surprises, some of the most wooden dialogue you’ve ever read (“A woman knows when she is being watched by the eyes of men,” Cassandra avers), and so many borrowings from earlier genre classics, from James M. Cain to Body Heat, Blue Velvet, and Fargo, that you may feel as if you’ve been locked in a revival house for the two hours it’ll take to zip through Lansdale Agonistes.

Luridly decorative in its trimmings, slapdash in its plotting, and ludicrously derivative.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-87873-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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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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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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