A unique novella that offers a passionate, if somewhat incoherent, defense of quality journalism.

THE NEWSPAPERMAN

In a new book by Nudo (The Millionaire’s Cross, 2014, etc.), a man investigates a local publication run by staffers who may be more dangerous than they seem.

Seth Kesler, who works in advertising, is “the last of a dying breed” of people who still love reading high-quality print journalism. So he’s intrigued when he meets Cedrick, an eccentric yet friendly old-fashioned newspaper hawker, outside his office building one morning. The C-U Journal, a long-defunct daily serving the Champagne-Urbana region of Illinois, has recently been purchased by Richard W. Fields, a media mogul who’s buying up local papers across the country. Seth, disenchanted by the fact that shallow internet click-bait is replacing quality journalism across the United States, is initially pleased to read a real newspaper. But the publication’s standards decline rapidly, resulting in sensationalized, poorly written, and likely inaccurate stories that seem aimed to titillate rather than tell the truth. Just as disturbingly, Cedrick proves himself to be quite capable of violence when crossed; in broad daylight, he brutally attacks some disrespectful teens who later mysteriously disappear—and Seth worries that they may have met a worse fate. Aided by his wife, his co-worker, and a local journalism professor, Seth investigates Cedrick, Fields, and the shady group of characters who churn out the C-U Journal, which he begins to see as a destructive force in the community. As Seth becomes increasingly passionate about defending his cause, however, he realizes that the C-U Journal staff may be a threat to his life. This quick, readable novella’s enthusiastic advocacy of good journalism feels very relevant in today’s era of “fake news.” Seth’s alarm at his friends’ and family’s reliance on unreliable sources (such as trending Twitter terms) rings true, as does the fact that the C-U Journal becomes widely read for its calculated, salacious content rather than for quality reporting. The C-U Journal staffers are more like horror-movie characters than denizens of realistic fiction—they talk and act bizarrely, enact frequent violence with theatrical élan, and experience either delayed consequences for their actions or none at all; for instance, no one beside Seth seems to notice Cedrick’s aggressive public behavior toward the teens. Seth is so calm and reasonable that it’s hard to determine what kind of reality he shares with the C-U Journal people. Indeed, the text leaves some major questions unanswered: Why are the local police so incompetent at investigating crimes when the culprits seem obvious to a casual observer? Why would Seth, after suspecting murder and witnessing terrible violence by C-U Journal staffers, accept an invitation to enter their building unaccompanied? If Fields is meant to serve as a symbol of the evils of modern journalism, why does he refuse to publish online, where some of the worst journalism trends of the past few years have festered? Although this work is certainly an entertaining read, these plot uncertainties make its message a murky one.

A unique novella that offers a passionate, if somewhat incoherent, defense of quality journalism.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-981783-28-1

Page Count: 166

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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