UNCLE SAM

This truly subversive graphic novel—more explicitly radical than anything else from DC Comics in recent memory—almost makes up for the years of muscular patriotism and jingoistic violence that have long defined most of the company’s product. Alex Ross, who recently provided the lush paintings for Superman: Peace on Earth, here flexes his illustrative skills in the service of Darnall’s stunning text, a damning account of American political history that also affirms basic democratic ideals. From the first full-page illustration of Uncle Sam as a derelict reaching out to the reader, the visually rich narrative makes its overarching point: the spirit of everything great in American history is down on its luck. Uncle Sam, whose image here derives largely from James Montgomery Flagg’s famous “I Want You” poster, stumbles through a dreamy landscape. In the foreground, he’s an “old nut,” a psycho in the ER who spouts sound bites from presidential history and pop culture. Periodically, he finds himself elsewhere in time: preparing to fight the Revolutionary War; in Kennedy’s Dallas limo; at the Blackhawk Massacre of 1832; at Andersonville Prison; and at a labor protest in 1932; at a Louisiana lynching. Scenes blend into one another, demonstrating the continuity of American history; bedraggled present-day Sam interrupts a political rally exploiting his alter ego. The pictorial narrative here is so smart that political speeches are illustrated with voice-over balloons explicating the truth behind the double-talk. Supplemented with a fine essay on the iconography and legend of Uncle Sam, this portrait of a down-and-out American hero quotes visually from both fine art (e.g., Vermeer) and classic illustration—the spirit of N.C.Wyeth is very much alive here. Among the most captivating examples of left-wing agitprop since the days of the Popular Front: Darnall and Ross’s populist message comes draped in red, white, and true-blue.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-56389-436-X

Page Count: 110

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more