A sometimes-haphazard tale but one with insightful moments.



Plaster (News, 2016, etc.) presents a comical novel concerning a lost film of Marilyn Monroe.

Henrietta is a struggling entertainment reporter in Oklahoma City, or “OKC,” as it’s often referred to in the text. The city may not seem like a hotbed of show-business activity, but a peculiar set of circumstances is destined to turn it into one. A down-on-his-luck producer/director named Deano DeBoffo happens to be stranded in town, where he was trying find backers for his own film, when the opportunity arises to make a movie about screen legend Monroe. A Hollywood agent/screenwriter in OKC named Marty Lowry claims to be in possession of a reel of 16-millimeter film, a little over three minutes long, that shows Monroe engaging in a sex act. Lowry’s idea is a simple one: he wants Deano to create a short docudrama around the footage and shoot scenes on the cheap in OKC using nothing but local talent. As luck would have it, the city happens to be home to a phenomenal Monroe impersonator—recently laid-off high school drama teacher Jim Bob Sherill. Jim Bob has dreams of becoming an actor; indeed, he’s so skilled at portraying Monroe that those who hire him seem to be unaware that he isn’t a woman. Meanwhile, other teachers are marching on the Oklahoma state capitol in protest of low wages and cuts to school arts program funding. As the teachers protest, the legislature considers incentives to lure other filmmakers to Oklahoma—and soon, the worlds of LA entertainment and OKC politics collide. The setup is indeed absurd, but as the novel goes on, it delves into some surprising subjects, including conspiracies surrounding Monroe’s death, the merits of the films of Edward D. Wood Jr., and details of method acting. Along the way, the reader learns, for instance, that Jacqueline Kennedy, of all people, said in 1962 that Monroe “will go on eternally.” Insights such as these give an unexpected weight to the fantastical characters and situations throughout. By contrast, when the book tackles more mundane subjects, it’s not quite as illuminating. The inclusion of angry teachers into the mix, for instance, doesn’t add very much to the drama, outside of a great deal of singing (Don McLean’s 1971 song “American Pie” makes more than one appearance) and the belabored idea that politicians aren’t very smart. At one point, for instance, the latter realize that that they can’t cut down too much on school funding—after all, having kids in the classroom is better than “having kids on the streets five days a week,” which “would sure enough spell trouble.” Indeed, the political aspects of the novel will likely test the reader’s patience, as the much more pressing issue is the creation of the docudrama and all the insanity that arises from it. The focus on Monroe’s life—and why she’s remembered so fondly, even today—proves to be much more intriguing than a fight for public school dance and theater productions.

A sometimes-haphazard tale but one with insightful moments.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9994185-0-5

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Mossik Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2018

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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