Writing for the fun of writing. A treat for the reader.

NOW AND FOREVER

SOMWHERE A BAND IS PLAYING & LEVIATHAN ’99

Two novellas from the big heart of an American original—one about time and music, the other a riff on Moby-Dick.

Still active, curious and writing in his ninth decade, Bradbury (Farewell Summer, 2006, etc.) does a little desk cleaning, finishing up a story that’s nagged at him for years and having another stab at a sci-fi version of Moby-Dick first written for radio following his screenplay for the midcentury John Huston film. The first novella, Somewhere a Band is Playing, was inspired by a Jerry Goldsmith movie theme with which Bradbury was so taken that he went home and wrote lyrics for it, snatches of which turn up here. An early 20th-century Chicago reporter, James Cardiff, responds to a song heard in a dream by taking a train to Arizona, alighting at Summerton, a Brigadoonish town scheduled to be wiped off the map by highway engineers. He’s met by an amiable stationmaster who delivers him in a horse-drawn wagon to a beautiful small hotel full of intoxicating kitchen smells and peopled by amiable immortals. Cardiff’s wanderings through the town follow the route of a friendly delivery horse and lead him to the arms of Nefertiti, another immortal, beautiful and wise, whose invitation to join the club sets his head spinning. Will he accept? It doesn’t really matter. The pleasure here is writing that sounds like Aaron Copland’s music written for Our Town, and it is pleasant indeed. In Leviathan ’99, Ishmael Jones signs on as crew for a rocket set for a mapping and exploration mission. His Queequegish berthmate is Quell, a huge telepathic spider with whom he quickly bonds. Following Melville’s template, the captain has his own mission, to capture Leviathan, the comet that blinded him years ago and which is now on a trajectory that will bring it perilously close to earth. Astronomy being more exact than 19th-century marine navigation, things come quickly to a head.

Writing for the fun of writing. A treat for the reader.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0061131571

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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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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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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