Though punctuated by clever cartoons, it’s still too long and not very funny.

BRIGHT LIGHTS, MEDIUM-SIZED CITY

A 20-something Florida house-flipper navigates the land mines of young adulthood.

Holic (American Fraternity Man, 2013, etc.) captures the essence of the novel he’s sending up here, Jay McInerny’s Bright Lights, Big City (1984), while transposing it to a more boring place—Orlando, Florida, circa 2009—offering way less cocaine and replacing the Brat Pack vibe with a True West–ish rivalry between brothers who are not nearly as interesting as Sam Shepard's angry siblings or McInerny's 1980s-era stereotypical coke addicts. Constructed as five “books,” which are entangled but not orderly, the novel tracks the arc of 20-something loser Marc. He’s been abandoned by his fiancee, Shelley, as well as his business partner, Edwin, who left him with 10 lousy properties right on the eve of the real estate bubble's bursting. He’s also estranged from his well-meaning but ruthless father. One of the troubling qualities of this novel about a privileged dude is that it's often, well, whiny; Marc is a sad sack whose narrative drama only changes when he’s forced to take in his freeloader bro, Kyle. The first book is constructed as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel, which might or might not resonate with readers but definitely reflects Marc's gloomy existential crisis in which any decision seems like torment. Through all the books, there are endless sequences of Marc, Kyle, and their various friends watching the end of the Orlando Magic’s 2009 NBA season, broken up by odd jolts in style. The third book dives deep into Marc’s childhood, ending with him being assaulted after another drunk, angry night out. The next volume gets even stranger, abandoning Marc’s first-person narration for a series of vignettes from the points of view of Marc’s brother, his friends, the mayor of Orlando, and a long-dead, legendary man named Orlando Reeves, a soldier killed during the Seminole war. It all comes to a head during a friend's wedding, constructed by the narrative as a “Final Exam” for Marc, forcing him to take stock of the decisions he’s made and just what it means to be a “grown-ass man.”

Though punctuated by clever cartoons, it’s still too long and not very funny.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-941681-61-9

Page Count: 620

Publisher: Burrow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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