Andre is a friendly kid but hardly a complex one, and newcomer Friedman has to reach and stretch for material enough to fill...

IDEAL MARRIAGE

The sometimes, though never deeply, amusing little tale of a teenaged boy planning for his sex life.

Andre Schulman is a New York City kid of 16 (the year is 1957) when he happens upon his parents’ sex manual, hidden at the back of a shelf—upon, that is, Van de Velde’s 1926 Ideal Marriage: Its Physiology and Techniques. For the enterprising and thoughtful Andre, the discovery becomes an incentive for much careful thinking, especially after he reads that Van de Velde holds as an achievable ideal the “husband as permanent lover of his wife”—an idea prompting Andre to “get a head start” and “begin preparing for marriage early.” He hopes briefly that he might lose his virginity to the unhappy and alcoholic Ronda, miserable with her own awful husband—but Ronda’s seductive overture proves to have been more boozy than real. On the other hand, a job as pillow salesman at Bloomingdale’s—industrious, he learns A to Z about bed pillows—lands him by quick invitation in the bed of an older woman, Gloria, who makes him a man—and whom he impresses with his own oral (albeit book-learned) technique. Gloria is a once-only girl, though, and Andre is left pining quixotically again for his true love, the perfect and pretty Jessica, though she lives in Boston and has taken up again with her previous boyfriend. The story maunders as high-school graduation draws slowly nearer and Andre dreams of the day Jessica will be his again—if ever. His father (a veterinarian who doesn’t like cats) offers a helpful conversation about masturbation (harmful only in excess, says dad), and Andre even finds out, in talking with his mother, that his father has brought less to an ideal marriage than he might have.

Andre is a friendly kid but hardly a complex one, and newcomer Friedman has to reach and stretch for material enough to fill up even this microcosmic little slip of a Bildungsroman.

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-57962-100-7

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more