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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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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