A compellingly readable contemporary fantasia set in a vivid New York of the mind.

Bunyan's Guide to the Great American Wildlife

A novel follows a man and a woman in the wilderness of New York City.

The two main characters in this tale, John Bunyan and Felicity Fawkler, first meet at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park in 2009. She’s an expat Brit of ancient lineage (she tells readers that her family “almost had a stitch in the Bayeux Tapestry”), or as John puts it, “Church of England, slender, little beanpole, waxy pallor of a holy relic, blush of a broken nose, cupid bow lips, preternatural and possibly, yes probably, possessed.” John himself is a hipster-style, fedora-wearing, struggling writer with a passion for the wilderness and a fascination with the animal dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History. John’s father is an antiquarian art dealer specializing in maps and medieval texts. Felicity becomes drawn to John immediately, despite the shadowy presence in his life of another woman, named Willow, a lonely and troubled soul whose childhood diaries readers sometimes peruse—they describe her grandfather’s friend Broady as a cryptozoologist. She hears stories of “Fearsome Critters” like the mangrove killfish, the snalygaster, and so on. (Broady asks the 9-year-old Willow: “I thought everyone knew what a Fillyloo is?”) Canterel (The Jolly Coroner, 2016) weaves together the stories of John and Felicity with a good deal of skill at handling the very elliptical nature of his narrative, which shifts viewpoint and time frame in a series of strange, surrealist moves. Through it all run two constants: the great wildlife guide John is composing and New York, a location Canterel adroitly reimagines as a sprawling wonderland in which anything is possible. “Even you, John, would agree that New York is a strange place at five in the morning,” John muses in a typical observation. “It’s almost as if the place shouldn’t exist. It is a city between two worlds.” As his slightly manic plot unfolds, Canterel deftly builds tension around John’s relationship with the enigmatic Willow, leading to long-telegraphed revelations at the book’s end.

A compellingly readable contemporary fantasia set in a vivid New York of the mind.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-911079-47-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Acorn Independent Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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