OUR SECRET LIFE IN THE MOVIES

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

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. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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