THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 1984

It's not surprising, perhaps, that Updike—a dazzling critic as well as an assured, gifted story-writer—proves to be the most satisfying guest-editor of the "Best American Short Stories" series so far. True, as with other celebrity-anthologizers (Joyce Carol Oates, John Gardner, etc.), one can see an idiosyncratic sensibility at work in some of the choices here. But, in Updike's case, personal taste never leads to the inclusion of second-rate, graceless work. Jeanne Schinto's "Caddies' Day" is a fine reflection of Updike's interest in the country-club world; his passion for everyday technical detail can be seen in Stephen Kirk's "Morrison's Reactions" (dentistry) and Lawry Pei's "The Cold Room" (animal-research labs); and an Updike-ian sense of subtle family-situation comes through in mother-oriented stories by Paul Bowles and Rick DeMarinis—while Donald Justice's "The Artificial Moonlight" echoes Updike's nostalgia with its feel for bygone sociability. Even more impressive, however, are the many standout stories here which have no particular link to Updike's particular world or style: Dianne Benedict's grotesque, moving study of a sick couple's impossible leave-taking; Mary Hood's wonderfully voiced account of a depressed southern matron's last days; good-ol'-boys comedy from Madison Smartt Bell, the dense eloquence of Lee K. Abbott (like boiled-down Walker Percy), a Botswana story from Norma Rush—plus first-class work by James Salter (the knowing, sneakily graceful "Foreign Shores"), Andre Dubus (the passionately Catholic "A Father's Story"), and Mavis Gallant (the distinguished, faultless "Lena"). And, like this year's O. Henry story-collection, Updike's shrewd, professional gathering is topped by a classic that's sure to appear in anthologies for decades to come: Cynthia Ozick's scouring projection of the path of Jewish history toward Miami Beach—"Rosa.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1984

ISBN: 0395354137

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1984

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 29


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 29


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Categories:

MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

Categories:
Close Quickview