A frank yet subtle novel about the old and the new and about the steps that led to the gay rights movement.

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PENNSYLVANIA STATION

A successful but lonely architect in early-1960s New York City begins a relationship with a much younger man during the early days of the gay rights movement in Horrigan’s (Portraits at an Exhibition, 2015, etc.) novel.

In 1962, Frederick Bailey lives in Manhattan, where he has a well-established career as an architect. At 48, he’s set in his ways and doesn’t believe in causes. His friend Deborah, however, has tried to get Frederick to protest the planned demolition of Penn Station with a preservationist group. But he notes that the station is a “sooty, baggy, ill-kept monster of a building, a confusing mixture of styles—faux classicism, Crystal Palace ostentation.” One night, Frederick helps a woman who’s been mugged, attracting the attention of Curt, a scrappy 20-year-old who makes romantic overtures toward him. Frederick, who’s closeted to family and most friends, agrees to a later rendezvous with Curt, who then stands him up. Months later, Frederick spots Curt at a museum and the two agree to meet again, thus beginning a long, somewhat-tumultuous relationship in which Frederick fears exposure and Curt recoils from monogamy. As Curt becomes involved with the Mattachine Society gay rights group, Frederick deals with personal issues, including his mother’s early signs of dementia. The couple embark on a European trip in 1964, and Curt’s fling with an Italian leads to a confrontation. Horrigan’s novel is convincingly at home in its time period, full of wonderful details and forthright opinions about architecture and art, family dynamics, and the fight over civil rights. The author keenly describes Frederick’s fears and his struggles to adhere to a false narrative regarding Curt as well as the punitive realities that gays experienced at the time. Although the reasons that Frederick is so tied to Curt could have been further explored, the author’s attempt to get into the psyche of a pre-Stonewall gay man is admirable. A touching scene with Frederick and his mother is also one of the novel’s highlights.

A frank yet subtle novel about the old and the new and about the steps that led to the gay rights movement.

Pub Date: April 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59021-636-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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