GO WEST YOUNG F*CKED-UP CHICK

Hollywood first novel, bravely bizarre and splintered as a mosaic, like pieces of Bruce Wagner and Nathanael West glued into a window sunlit with despair. Well, what does a 20-year-old heroine, who finds her suicidal, alcoholic mother hanging by her neck in the bathroom, have going for her? Not much. So Rebecca Roth gets into her shamefully beat-up yellow Toyota Corolla and drives cross-country to L.A., where she falls for super-charismatic black stud/French scholar Isaac, supports him with her $120-a-week job assisting celebrity reporter Darlene on Entertainment Tonight, visits sound-stages, helps locate celebs at parties, sits pretty with Austrian muscle-man Arnold (known here as Helmut Grosskopf), finds herself pregnant on the same day as she kicks out Isaac—and then must get an abortion. If that sounds like a storyline, it isn’t. The novel is pieced together in fragments, some only a third of a page long, giving us an airless, spirit-choking survey of stars, restaurants, and Rebecca’s largely lowlife existence: “I was exultant. Even breathed the thick poison, liked the way it filled my throat.” Reluctantly, she briefly tries therapy for abused children of alcoholic parents, not thinking herself abused, yet haunted by grungy, horrible dreams of her dead mother. Sleeping with kooks and a rocker from the Meat Puppets, fielding paranoid phone calls, encountering a middle-aged nut in the Laundromat who thinks he’s Gene Autry’s son and has a postcard of Gene to prove it, Rebecca fails to make much sense of the nightmarish Day-Glo landscape forever bopping the reader’s eyes, billboards, shaved palm trees, all in a technicarnal brilliance . An apocalyptic Wiley Coyote cartoon, or a lipstick kiss on a napkin kept in a bureau as a souvenir of hapless days when you were underpaid, little-known, and shivering.

Pub Date: April 8, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-19889-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

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?

No Comments Yet
more