An intriguing, frequently affecting experiment that challenges its readers to think anew about sharpening and refracting...

OUR SECRET LIFE IN THE MOVIES

Coming-of-age along the weirder edges of late-20th-century America is evoked through a montage of gritty, frequently bizarre tales spinning obliquely off cult and classic movies.

If you were to read a story about a man who leaves his family to marry one of a dozen eggs he buys at a grocery store (yes, you read it right the first time), would it occur to you to somehow connect this to the 1983 science-fiction thriller Blade Runner? Assuming you’d seen the movie and given some thought to its theme, you might—or you might dismiss the connection altogether. Such challenges to memory and intellect make this novel as close to an interactive experience as reading a collection of cutting-edge short fiction can be. McGriff and Tyree take turns writing brief stories inspired by, but not directly connected to, the same movies. Some links are easier to make than others: The railroad-tracks riff deployed by both writers off George Washington (2000) will resonate with those who remember a principal setting of David Gordon Green’s haunting reverie of childhoods at risk, while On the Waterfront (1954) inspires one of the writers (there are no bylines) to take a surrealistic stroll along the docks while the other takes off after someone who ratted him out. But after a while, it doesn’t matter how you match your memories of the movies with theirs or whether you’ve seen all of them. Because what emerges from these sometimes-opaque, often strikingly realistic sketches is a portrait of suburban or rural youth from the 1980s to the present day; “linked snapshots,” as the authors’ introduction aptly puts it, “chronicling our parallel trajectories as the last children of the Cold War.”

An intriguing, frequently affecting experiment that challenges its readers to think anew about sharpening and refracting their memories of both life and art.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9892759-6-5

Page Count: 168

Publisher: A Strange Object

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more