THE HIPPOPOTAMUS

Once again, from the author of The Liar (1993), plenty of penetration and unabashed chauvinism. It's a bad sign when a story begins with a warning from the narrator about its 94,536 words: ``I've suffered for my art, now it's your turn.'' Fry seems as self-satisfied as his main character. Ted, a bitter old poet, is having a drink at a local pub and checking out the women (``all of whom I wanted to take upstairs and spear more or less fiercely''), when he runs into one of his two godchildren. Jane, a lovely 25-year-old with whom he lost contact when he and her mother had a falling out years ago, has leukemia and only three months to live. But Jane believes she's cured—cured, in fact, by Ted's other godchild, a 15-year-old named David. Jane offers Ted one million dollars to spend time at Swafford Hall, the home of David's family, ostensibly to write a biography of David's father, Michael, but really to discover the healer's secret and share it with the world. Ted, always the skeptic, takes the offer on a lark (and because he needs the money). He finds David to be an extremely sensitive and proud boy who claims that his great-grandfather had curative powers. This, and the coincidental placement of his hand on his little brother's chest just as he came out of a moment of respiratory distress, convinces David that he can remedy everything from cancer to homeliness. The claim also provides the perfect outlet for David's sexual urges when he decides that to truly treat a person he must get inside that person. He deposits his medicative seed in everyone from cousin Jane to angina-suffering friend Oliver and an ill horse. Good satire is thoughtful, but this is too obviously constructed to shock and offend.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-43879-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1994

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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