Incisive and riveting tales with a diverse cast courtesy of a skillful, expressive author.

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BLOOD FIRE VAPOR SMOKE

In this collection of short stories, characters seek vengeance or strive for forgiveness.

Ray’s tale “Black Kettle” follows the titular, real-life Cheyenne chief, who fights to protect his people. Despite the tribe’s irrefutable surrender, Col. John Chivington leads a massacre at Black Kettle’s village. But the story, notwithstanding the chief’s never-ending pursuit of peace, centers on revenge against Chivington. Characters in several of the tales yearn for retribution. In “Republic of Fear,” a grandfather sends his grandson to avenge the boy’s dead father; in “The World Clean and Bright,” a young tribe member tracks down those responsible for the deaths of a loved one’s parents. At the same time, individuals are also forgiving. The unnamed woman of the heart-rending “The Current Kings,” for example, seems willing to forgive the men who seize her with unmistakably malicious intent. And “The Debt Men” features two characters, Zach Harrelson and Phil Silven, with turmoil in their marriages. Absolution may be in the cards for both even if only one man is truly deserving. Most of the tales unfold in Montana, including the unorthodox and curious “Love is Blindness.” In it, an affair threatens to separate married couple Michael White and Kristina Rosamonde, but a sudden injury will either split them apart or reunite them. A few historical figures, in addition to Black Kettle, make appearances. The protagonists of the collection’s sole poem, “City on the Threshold of Stars,” are Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, Czech soldiers who played a part in the assassination of the Butcher of Prague, Reinhard Heydrich.

The author, a clinical psychologist who “spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne reservation,” tackles race in intelligent and sundry ways. It’s blunt in “Black Kettle,” as, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Cheyenne wish to kill Chivington while the colonel brazenly displays Native American scalps next to the United States flag. But “The Diplomat” is from the perspective of an American at an embassy in Africa; his own country’s racism sparks White guilt and a desire to help someone in need. And “Spirit of the Animal” is essentially a love story between Bird In Ground, a Cheyenne woman, and Jeroen, a White man she aids after he narrowly survives a wolverine attack. Ray aptly establishes characters who boast distinctive personalities and complex family ties. In “The Hunger, the Light,” Jakob hates his abusive parents, who, in turn, despise each other, and in “Fourteen Types of Belief,” gifted college basketball player Everett Highwalker takes inspiration from his dead half-Cheyenne father. While the stories have their share of hatred and death, the book doesn’t succumb to despondency. Myriad characters are steadfast in their beliefs, a stance that promotes strength. This is further exemplified by the author’s prose, which is poetic even when describing the harsh elements some Cheyenne families face in “Black Wound”: “Northward still, flurries of snow placed white ledges on the limbs of trees and as the band progressed the sky turned dense until land and sky were one and the edges of the world had smoothed into a blanket under which their dreams and desires slept like animals of a forgotten country, like bears under the dark of den and breath.”

Incisive and riveting tales with a diverse cast courtesy of a skillful, expressive author.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947021-94-5

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Unsolicited Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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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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