An action-packed but uneven comic romp.



In this novel, a man named Glenn Beck encounters plenty of trouble (any resemblance between the protagonist and the former Fox News commentator is most likely not a coincidence).

“There are a lot of Glenn Becks in the phone book,” the author writes. “This is one of ’em.” This Glenn Beck engages a whore. Is thrown in prison. Gets kidnapped. Twice. Repeatedly soils himself. One through-line holds the tale together: McGrouchpants clearly disdains Beck and takes palpable delight in dropping him into humiliating scenarios. The novel’s subtitle is somewhat misleading. There is no mystery to solve; at some points in the story, the author writes: “Glenn Beck thought, ‘It’s like I’m a detective.’ ” While McGrouchpants declines to offer a mystery, he seems well read. He dedicates the 2016 book to “sanity preservers” Alain Robbe-Grillet, Joan Didion, and William S. Burroughs. He kicks off the novel with quotes by the likes of Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, J.G. Ballard, William Gibson, and Pauline Kael. But the work’s subtitle and the author’s pseudonym are an indication of the level of wit. The tale’s second sentence (“The whore was not the one he ordered”) sets the scabrous tone. The bulk of the 200 chapters are one to two sentences. For example: The 45-word Chapter One Hundred Eighty-Three ends with “Something had to give.” The next chapter opens with “Like: Glenn Beck’s bladder.” Along the way, the author delivers some amusing lines and colorful details. And readers who dislike Beck (and Fox News) will likely enjoy the story. But too often McGrouchpants seems to be of the opinion that the mere mention of Beck’s name in a compromising or scatological context is hilarious. Fans of Mel Brooks’ 1968 comedy The Producers may remember the humorous reaction shots of outraged Broadway patrons to the spectacle of Springtime for Hitler. Those will doubtless be the looks on some readers’ faces as they tear through this tale. In comedy, timing is everything, which raises the question: Why would readers in 2020 be interested in a book ridiculing Beck? Beck’s public profile and cultural standing have waned considerably since his Fox glory days when his signature blackboard and onscreen crying jags were brilliantly skewered by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Unfortunately, this novel feels a bit too much and too late.

An action-packed but uneven comic romp.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5323-1592-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

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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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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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