In his debut novel, Cohen manages the impressive feat of memorably documenting obsession without surrendering to it.

THE GLAMSHACK

A tale of romantic obsession filtered through its protagonist’s fixations on history and media.

Henry Folsom, our narrator, is a man with a lot on his mind. He's become increasingly obsessed with the Plains Indian Wars of the 19th century—particularly through the lens of Evan S. Connell’s book Son of the Morning Star. His work as a celebrity journalist is eating away at him. But the thing that occupies his mind above all else is his affair with a woman, now absent, who goes unnamed throughout the book. Instead, he speaks of her in the way that others refer to their deity of choice: Henry’s narration capitalizes words like She and Her when referring to his paramour. At times, Henry’s level of focus can be difficult to reckon with: this book is a deep dive into one character’s areas of interest and preoccupation, and the specifics can sometimes venture into the overly idiosyncratic. It’s notable, though, that Cohen maintains some distance between the story he’s recounting and the story as Henry remembers it. Frequently, Henry views events through another telling of them: he mentions the film adaptation of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and his view of the Indian Wars with which he’s obsessed is peppered with nods to Connell’s book rather than to the actual history. And periodically, the plot takes Henry down a notch or two: when he discovers that the object of his affection has Cherokee heritage, he responds, “And you let me go on like that? God, how embarrassing.” These scenes of self-awareness effectively balance Henry's more overwrought moments.

In his debut novel, Cohen manages the impressive feat of memorably documenting obsession without surrendering to it.

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9984092-0-7

Page Count: 215

Publisher: 7.13 Books

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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