NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH

THE YEAR’S BEST, 2000

Hardly flawless, but, like its past numbers, a showcase of new talent that shores up some developing careers, and pays...

For the 15th anniversary of New Stories from the South, Ravenel stirs up a real gumbo of southern writing: authors of all ages—some first-timers, some long familiar to fans of this essential series.

Ravenel picks from magazines big (The New Yorker) and minuscule (Yemassee) but shows a noticeable bias for writers and writing from The Oxford American, the slick voice of the South that deserves a wider hearing. Ellen Douglas’s expendable preface (a patchwork of quotations) little prepares you for the variety and complexity demonstrated throughout. An homage to Flannery O’Connor (almost de rigueur for the series) is followed by the first published story of Thomas McNeely, a surefire talent who penetrates the sad and pathetic mind of a mentally disturbed killer. The same fierce imagination burns in newcomer D. Winston Brown, whose tale of street violence captures the generational discord among some southern blacks. Tim Gautreaux dishes out a somewhat formulaic tale of a blue-collar young man who can’t quite connect with a woman he picks up hitchhiking, a self-described “handicapped black lesbian” professor of women’s studies. Robert Olen Butler’s “Heavy Metal” seems equally predictable: a girl who grows up in a fundamentalist family begins to find her “own personal Jesus” in body piercing. The romantic stories play with class and gender: a young gay photographer, who thinks he channels electricity, falls for a straight and not-very-good-looking older colleague (“Mr. Puniverse”); a sexy young girl works at her father’s cardboard plant, and seduces a worker as part of her adventure in slumming (“Good-Hearted Woman”); and in Romulus Linney’s Appalachian folk tale, a young woman (“The Widow”) finds her new mate with some clever conjuring. One particularly amateurish piece—a bit of self-consciousness about an MFA program—seems hopelessly out of place here, and has no apparent southern connection.

Hardly flawless, but, like its past numbers, a showcase of new talent that shores up some developing careers, and pays homage to the wonder that is southern fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2000

ISBN: 1-56512-295-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

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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