Appealing, sometimes-eerie stories, fiction or otherwise.

TOXIC COOKOUT

Dinsmoor (You Can Leave Anytime, 2015, etc.) offers a collection of horrific and fantastic SF tales sprinkled with quirky nonfiction selections. 

The darkly humorous “Selfies” opens this book with a tale of two young besties, one of whom isn’t exactly human and has an alarming plan for the other. Such a bizarre narrative is indicative of much of Dinsmoor’s work herein. Other tales include “The Generation Pyramid,” which follows individuals caught up in a rather unnerving pyramid scheme, and “The World in Gunnar’s Barn,” in which the titular character’s garage is the site of a fascinating, otherworldly “project.” While most stories are unabashedly science fiction, there’s a handful of nonfiction offerings as well, such as the title story. A standout among the nonfiction is “My Mob Super,” an engaging account of an episode in the life of the author, who hails from Indiana, in Manhattan in the 1980s. His New York super was reputedly mob-affiliated Lou, who was particularly scary when Rob’s roommate neglected to pay his half of the rent. A few of the SF stories have predictable twists, and some explore similar territory. “Times Are Different in Port St. Joe” and “Directions to Another World,” for example, both revolve around wormholes. Dinsmoor, however, distinguishes these tales in other ways. “Times” is the spooky one (Bob is consumed with locating a wormhole in Florida and undeterred by the apparent danger) in contrast to the diverting “Directions” (Leo’s newly repaired GPS system helps get him to his destination in mere minutes, regardless of the distance). Despite the book’s generally dark themes, it offers glimpses of happier moments. “Howard at Ravenswood” and “Life After Bambi” are two seemingly bleak stories that ultimately turn, respectively, witty and bittersweet. Dinsmoor’s no-nonsense writing often begets slow-building horror and subtle humor. In “The Pharaoh Cats,” the narrator describes his sister’s growing obsession with felines, which entails the sight of roaming cats and the “pervasive” odor of “cat pee.”

Appealing, sometimes-eerie stories, fiction or otherwise. 

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-945917-47-9

Page Count: 149

Publisher: Big Table Publishing Company

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

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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 strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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