A richly observed portrait of Britain’s young and feckless that’s compromised by a weak, uninvolving protagonist.

DISBANDED KINGDOM

A callow gay youth searches for love and the semblance of a life in this debut coming-of-age novel.

An effigy of a lost millennial generation, Oscar, in his early 20s, spends his time prowling London’s clubs and cafes, aimlessly riding buses, wondering what job he can get without a degree or resume—rebuffed when he applies at a restaurant, he considers posing as an underage rent boy—and hanging out with his similarly bewildered friends. What keeps him going is his foster mother, Charlotte Fontaine, a best-selling romance novelist who doles out generous stipends and relentlessly babies him in a fashion that looks like “either mother and son or madame et gigolo.” Their cozy, queasy relationship is disrupted by Tim Kielty, a charming, sexually ambiguous executive with Charlotte’s publisher who starts spending time at their home. During flirtatious smoking sessions on the balcony in which the men eye each other and debate God’s existence, Oscar imagines that they are soul mates. Alas, soon afterward he realizes that Tim is pursuing an affair with Charlotte. This explosive situation stays locked inside Oscar’s head as he stews and fantasizes about Tim without taking action on his feelings. Still, while this ruminative and atmospheric story explores the delicate shadings of Oscar’s emotions, his very passivity becomes a rebellion against the coarse striving of contemporary society as he drifts through Tube stations beside businessmen shouting into their cellphones and longs for a reprise of Victorian gentility. He’s a spiritual seeker in a sea of materialists—exemplified by his pal Bella, full of funny invective against Christmas bell ringers and reincarnation theorists—who ponders whether he “is only blood, and nerves, and meat” or part of a greater mystical connection. Loizou’s supple prose excels at vivid London scene-scapes—“There was Charing Cross Road, people with placards decrying something, Tories or terrorists, then Chandos Place and then the Strand, and an old woman with a shawl playing Strauss on a violin as pedestrians passed by”—and sharp social commentary. Unfortunately, Oscar is such a pallid cipher that his quest for self-actualization hardly resonates.

A richly observed portrait of Britain’s young and feckless that’s compromised by a weak, uninvolving protagonist.

Pub Date: March 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9954657-9-4

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Cloud Lodge Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2017

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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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