The balance is off here, Wallace’s comic gifts wasted. What felt frothy and fun in the first books turn leaden when a...

MADAM PRESIDENT

In this sequel to Eighteen Acres (2010) and It’s Classified (2011), her political romps about America’s fictional first woman president, political insider and The View co-host Wallace goes darker but not deeper, centering her story on the White House reaction to a major terrorist attack on American soil.

The novel opens shortly after bombs have been detonated in five American cities, including Washington D.C., causing an unknown but probably high number of casualties. Moderate Republican Charlotte Kramer faces this crisis well into her second term as the country’s 45th president. She and husband Peter have reconciled. She has even hired his former mistress, Dale, as her press secretary. Charlotte’s former chief of staff, Melanie, is now secretary of defense; she's on a visit to still–war-torn Iraq. Once the bombings are confirmed, meetings follow press statements that follow meetings on how to handle the press and how to address the public. There are arguments by Melanie (seemingly as a stand-in for the author) for military readiness, revenge, and "enhanced interrogation," as well as a behind-the-scenes look at internal White House politics, all clearly drawn from the author’s experience as communications director for President George W. Bush. Meanwhile, despite the crisis, Charlotte, Dale, and Melanie each deal with their own personal issues. Charlotte obsesses about the flaws in her marriage. Secretly 20 weeks pregnant, Melanie wonders how she’ll balance motherhood with her career and worries about being cut from Charlotte’s inner circle. Dale is in a new relationship with Melanie’s close friend Warren, a saintly war veteran now serving as a political consultant to Charlotte, but she worries that he's more committed than she is, partly because she’s not completely over Peter; word of the bombings interrupts their attempt to rendezvous.

The balance is off here, Wallace’s comic gifts wasted. What felt frothy and fun in the first books turn leaden when a national tragedy is less important than who slept with or back-stabbed whom.

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5689-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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