THE FURTHER INQUIRY

Author and counterculture leader Kesey stages a mock trial of the spirit of Neal Cassady—hero of Jack Kerouac's On the Road and "the fastest man alive"—defending him with loving reportage, fragments of verbatim transcripts, and scads of photos (153 color, 256 b&w—some seen) of the Merry Pranksters and their 1964 voyage across America in a psychedelically painted bus called "Further." "Ease off. Csshhh. . .New York! Somewhere north. Dig the semi passing," says Cassady here in an amazing stream-of-consciousness monologue that trips from speeding trucks to the laws of time and motion ("In every action or thing like pshhoooo! there's a weak spot. Now the weak spot is always attacked by the highest of the next lower forces. Like second dimensional, third dimensional, fourth dimensional. . ."). The monologue never really stops from La Honda, Cal., to N.Y.C., and it's what inspired Tom Wolfe to celebrate Cassady in The Electric Keel. Aid Acid Test as a speed-demon shaman to the nation's young. Creating an imaginary courtroom and employing screenplay format (he wrote an early version of this work as a screenplay in 1978), Kesey scrutinizes the character of the jittery, lecherous Cassady. Did he or did he not seduce and bedevil the young actress who came to be called "Stark Naked"? Calling to the stand such stalwart fellow travelers as Gretch the Slime Queen, Zonker, and Dr, Knot, Kesey exonerates "Cowboy Neal" and celebrates the whole strange trip as powerful medicine for a nation stagnating behind a "screen" of habit: "The situation was bound to become—still might become terminal, unless that cancerous screen is blasted away, like scales from the eye, tartar from the tooth. . ." A psychedelic valentine for the Nineties: a wacky and slight but sweet and wistful review of the best-known trip of the Sixties.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0670831743

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1990

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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