A wildly entertaining take on Hollywood and the slime beneath the sparkle.

Keep Santa Monica Clean

A Los Angeles noir novel shows readers a side of the city that they don’t often allow themselves to see.

A rising screenwriter, a smoky bar, a beautiful blonde across the room. The classic imagery is all here, but this isn’t quite that kind of story. The action immediately cuts to years later, when Dante Lee, the screenwriter—now a jaded never-was who files entertainment/gossip blog posts under a pseudonym—finds himself in the middle of what’s clearly not his first uncomfortable sex scene. Even outside Dante’s emotional exhaustion, Hollywood is clearly in decline, particularly due to a rash of hacking—and subsequent scandals—that has both studio executives and starlets waffling between panic and the warpath. Enter the blonde from the bar, Grace Chase, who’s used the intervening four years to build a successful acting career as the face of a now-major TV franchise. Dante’s anything but eager to help Grace, but he can’t abandon her to the hackers blackmailing her with incriminating photos. To help her, he’ll have to dig into parts of his history he’d rather forget and confront the uncomfortable facts of Grace’s life—and where that leaves him. The reluctant hero is one of many well-worn noir tropes Adam (American Asshole, 2016) employs, but the author uses them well. Dante is a perfect combination of charming and difficult for this sort of tale, and Grace is pitch-perfect as his opposite number. But the glue that holds it all together is the twisting novel’s style and sense of humor. Sharp narration and situation comedy blend with the genuine threat of the hackers and Hollywood itself to keep the pages turning. And Dante offers acerbic asides frequently, demonstrating more self-awareness than most protagonists (“Beyond the city limits of Los Angeles, there’s a high risk of contracting terminal boredom. Nothing interesting ever happened from traveling that far east”). He also envisions the way scenes in his life would look in movie form. These elements give the narration a unique sense of character and at the same time reveal the one thing Dante might not want readers to know—beneath the jaundiced exterior, he still holds his dreams of the silver screen.

A wildly entertaining take on Hollywood and the slime beneath the sparkle.

Pub Date: July 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-64606-945-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Post-Entropy

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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