A fine collection of tales about people dancing frenetically on the edge of doom.

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AT DANCETERIA AND OTHER STORIES

Celebrities—and some ordinary people—keep the party going as the AIDS plague gathers in these elegiac stories of gay life in the 1980s.

Walker’s debut collection imagines encounters between iconic gay men, drag queens, clubgoers, and warmly empathetic female divas in a vibrant but increasingly shadowed demimonde where news of the deaths of friends becomes routine. Designer Halston, Andy Warhol, and Liza Minnelli attend a fashion show and then repair to Studio 54 to snort cocaine and toss off bitchy one-liners; flamboyant rocker Freddie Mercury escorts Princess Diana, dressed as a man, to a London bar where she takes in a man impersonating her; a humble handyman bonds with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis when they visit a gay bar in New York; an aging Rock Hudson, unaware of his coming rendezvous with the HIV virus, cruises a gay nightclub and finds a hot young thing who still considers him a stud; a San Francisco drag queen channels Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker while Bette Midler beams from the audience; an average-looking gay man feels he is safe from the mysterious disease he dubs the Hot Guy Flu because it only seems to strike the handsomest men. And in the title story, artist Keith Haring erupts in spontaneous image-making at a Danceteria party, with Madonna herself belting out a benediction to him. Walker registers and skillfully evokes the intensely image-bound nature of these boldfaced names—a coked-up Minnelli is “bubbling, a bit manic, laughing. Like a tall puppet”—but also manages to give these brittle narcissists inner lives of needy vulnerability. His supple, fluent prose evokes the inchoate dread haunting the frantic party scene (“The strobe lights from the balcony flickered in just the right way so that, for a second, everyone looked as if they were frozen in time, suspended from the ceiling by wires”). Too cleareyed for nostalgia, this volume paints an evocative, painful, but sympathetic portrait of a cultural watershed.

A fine collection of tales about people dancing frenetically on the edge of doom.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-941960-05-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Squares & Rebels

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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