A pair of tales that will entertain, transport, and move readers.

WHAT SOME WOULD CALL LIES

Two novellas introduce two protagonists yielding to long-stymied grief.

In Shoplifting, a writer named Monica Evans assumes the role of stay-at-home mother to a toddler in the sticks of Northern California. The angst of this identity shift moves Monica to more deeply process life events formerly consigned to “emotional shorthand”—namely her choice to drop out of an MFA program; the memoir she started writing then abruptly stopped; and the death of her sister, a prospective lawyer who was a troublemaker with a knack for shoplifting in a past life. This reflecting, as well as several rattling visitations from a specter, eventually causes Monica to resume her memoir by way of writing a piece on shoplifting. In doing so, she finds herself adopting a penchant for the habit that heals her in surprising ways. In Infidels, an adult named Jackie Rose recalls his wintry preteen years in suburban Minnesota against the backdrop of 1970s postwar anxiety. Jackie is the son of an alcoholic father who is a Vietnam veteran-turned-kitchenware-salesman. Jackie’s mother is a homemaker who—much to her husband’s chagrin—is pursuing a college education. Jackie himself is more like his mother in that he is bookish and prefers to spend time in the library reading and worrying about Russian warfare over training for the hockey and baseball tryouts his father insists he attend. Amid increasing tension between his parents, Jackie disappears into the formidable task that is leaving boyhood behind in “Me Decade” Middle America. In these enjoyable and touching stories, Davidson’s (Spectators, 2017, etc.) prose is meticulous in conjuring the precise atmospherics of time and place. His nostalgia for a bygone era in Infidels is particularly vivid (“I knew where he’d lifted that look. It was Danny Zuko in Grease. We’d seen the movie three times last summer, drooling over Olivia Newton John in those skin-tight leather pants”). The author also demonstrates impressive stylistic dynamism; his writing can be both funny and adept at rendering painful emotional intricacies. That said, Davidson doesn’t extend this care to other elements of his writing. Some side characters lack dimension. Recurring symbols make appearances that read like afterthoughts. And dialogue occasionally veers toward the trite.

A pair of tales that will entertain, transport, and move readers. 

Pub Date: July 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944355-46-3

Page Count: 177

Publisher: Five Oaks Press

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2019

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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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