Flash fiction at its best that’s definitely worth a look.

SPECTATORS

A small but mighty collection of textual snapshots.

Inspired by the photographic and artistic works of Tom Patton, Stephani Schaefer, and Sara Umemoto, Davidson (The Farther Shore, 2012, etc.) offers a set of short works that he divides into three sections: “Spectators,” “Signals & Marches,” and “Fog & Woodsmoke.” Often, we think of photographs as repositories of past actions, but the author uses the present tense to lend immediacy and movement to the images that he creates. From the very first text, “Clean Pilgrim,” he draws readers in and leaves them breathless. Referring to Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park, Davidson captures the cycles of nature and history as well as the musical qualities of water, highlighting its power to nourish, cleanse, transform, and destroy: “Water is the ceaseless murmur of language, an inky stream beckoning all to begin again.” In a similar vein, he depicts geographical features of Utah’s Monument Valley as “sculpted slabs licked clean by God’s weary tongue.” “Ode to a Selfie” finds a kind of sympathetic logic behind ubiquitous smartphone self-portraits, without which no modern take on photography would be complete, showing how we all attempt to cling to memories and preserve them for the future. Thus, Davidson considers internal landscapes as well, as in “Woman with No Hands,” which bears witness to the role reversal that occurs between a mother and a daughter as part of the aging process. One standout in the second section is “Failure,” which compares humans’ precarious existence to the sport of beach volleyball: “Memory grabs at our lives, like a losing player’s fingers thrust into the sand. We throw it all to the wind, praying it won’t spit back.” Many readers will find themselves returning to these short, meditative texts as they would to cherished photographs, searching for one’s own interpretations and discovering new details, nuances, or shadings that they may have overlooked. As Davidson notes in “The Best View”: “Perhaps an artist is nothing more than a parent learning to let go, releasing images into a disorderly world.”

Flash fiction at its best that’s definitely worth a look.

Pub Date: July 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944355-31-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Five Oaks Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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