Loden fans will enjoy Léger’s riffs; others may find the obsession mystifying.


French writer Léger muses on the life and work of American filmmaker Barbara Loden (1932-1980).

Loden directed one film, Wanda, which she wrote and starred in. Assigned to write “a short entry” about the movie for a film encyclopedia, Léger says she,“kept being carried away by the subject.” Her interest grows after learning Loden based Wanda on “a newspaper story she had read about a woman convicted of robbing a bank,” who “thanked the judge” when given a 20-year prison sentence. “[What] pain, what hopelessness could make a person desire to be put away?” Léger wonders, “How could imprisonment be relief?” Moving descriptions of Loden’s performance in Wanda dot the narration as Léger struggles to reveal joy or pain Loden may have hidden, beyond her early work as a pin-up girl, her marriage to Elia Kazan, and a 1964 Tony Award for her role in Arthur Miller’s After the Fall. Translators Lehrer and Menon give Léger’s voice immense verve in English as her small task becomes an obsession. “You think you’re dealing with pure formalities, footnotes...then somehow you end up with endless decisions to make, with abandoned hopes and collapsed hyphotheses.” Even a trip to the Pennsylvania coal-mining towns where Wanda was filmed yields no eureka moment. While Léger accepts that Loden is an elusive myth, this hybrid text mirroring that elusiveness fails to reveal what Léger actually found so fascinating. “When Wanda came out in 1970 feminists hated it,” Léger notes, saying it had “no self-awareness, no pioneering mythology of the free woman.” But the film had fans in Europe, including Marguerite Duras, who said of the final scene in Wanda, “I see a kind of glory there, a very powerful glory, very violent, very profound.”

Loden fans will enjoy Léger’s riffs; others may find the obsession mystifying.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9973666-0-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Dorothy

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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?