A HOUSE OF SECRETS

The former President's younger daughter follows up her bestselling Homefront and Deadfall and Kitty Kelley's Nancy Reagan with a moody, relentlessly introspective story about a moody, relentlessly introspective California girl whose career as a Serious Writer is haunted by memories of life with a brittle, humorless, ambitious, control freak of a mother and a pleasant, vague, rich, and possibly corrupt father. Of course, it would be terribly unfair to try to make this almost certain bestseller about life with a mother from hell who drives one daughter into a suicide attempt and another to early sterilization into Nancy Dearest, or to tie any of its characters with former real-life residents of the White House, since Nancy Reagan had only one moody, introspective daughter and since the pleasant, vague, possibly corrupt father here has white hair and the mean mum has red hair. The daughter with the early sterilization is the narrator Carla Tipton, whose mother seems to hate her more and more as she grows up. Carla's primary sins are her refusal to stop growing or to stop writing moody, introspective, thinly disguised autobiographical scraps of fiction. Poor Carla tries to hide the evidence of her early puberty and the scraps of fiction, but her mother Always Knows, hating her more and more, always preferring Carla's timid little sister Lily. Early sexual experimentation at the local high school lands Carla in a tiny boarding school, where she seduces the dishwasher and becomes more moody and introspective. In college she has an affair with an early but doomed ecofreak and undergoes an ecologically sound Native American herbal abortion followed by voluntary sterilization reversal and ever more distant relations with mum until, on his deathbed, dad reveals shocking family secrets known only to mum and Edward Albee. Floating in a sea of psychoanalytically induced dreams, full of naughty sex, loaded with eerie parallels to the no-longer-First Family, and dreadfully dumb. Should sell millions.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1991

ISBN: 1-55972-082-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Birch Lane Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1991

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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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