by Philip Roth ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 1, 1985
Roth's last three novels—The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, The Anatomy Lesson—have all dealt with the adventures, the headaches and neckaches, the ancestral burdens and complaints of novelist Nathan Zuckerman; here these three books are reprinted in full, then capped by a new, 83-page epilogue, "The Prague Orgy." Zuckerman is now visited by a pathetic pair of Czech emigres: they've come to flatter him and simultaneously to make him feel wretchedly un-beleaguered; they tell him about a manuscript by the father of one of the emigres—a book of stories, in Yiddish, more keenly alienated than Kafka, utterly saturated with the poetry of Jewish dispossession. The problem, however, is that this manuscript is in the possession of the man's vindictive ex-wife. So Zuckerman, up to any challenge if it's self-compromising enough, goes to Prague; he meets the ex-wife; he rejects her advances. (The sexual atmospheres have a kind of grey hysteria that even Zuckerman considers better left alone.) Finally he is given the manuscript of the stories. But, though written in Yiddish, the stories seem unreadable to Zuckerman. Furthermore, the state police arrive to confiscate the manuscript and rush Zuckerman to the airport—hectoring him all the way, charging him with hypocrisy. (The Czechs point to American censorship of great literature: e.g., the case of Betty MacDonald, author of The Egg and I, a "masterpiece" as far as these culture cops are concerned.) And so Zuckerman's trip is a complete folly—while his haplessnesss becomes the theme of the epilogue, of perhaps the whole trilogy: "That such things can happen—there's the moral of the stories—that such things happen to me, to him, to her, to you, to us. That is the national anthem of the Jewish homeland. By all rights, when you hear someone there begin telling a story—when you see the Jewish faces mastering anxiety and feigning innocence and registering astonishment at their own fortitude—you ought to stand and put your hand to your heart." A slight addition to the Zuckerman epic, then, but one that throws the work's Jewish themes into some strong relief.
Pub Date: June 1, 1985
Page Count: 568
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1985
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
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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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.
Pub Date: July 11, 1960
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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