Gaily self-amused, told in tart memos, cheeky checklists, sighs, essays, legal briefs, and heartsick journal entries....

ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE

Gay guys go gaga. By the author of the well-received baseball novel The Last Days of Summer (1998).

In 1978, Travis Puckett and all-star quarterback and shortstop Craig McKenna fall for each other at Beckley School in Tarrytown, New York, but ignore and put each other off until, well, all resistance fades and they kiss on a rainy day under a viaduct and then spend hours in each other’s arms. Craig is a sports star with a body to die for while Travis obsesses over Broadway musicals and collects every cast recording ever made, once even cutting classes and hiking 300 miles to buy a used LP of Greenwillow with Tony Perkins in a singing role. Craig prefers Tony stabbing women in the shower. The two go off to colleges on opposite coasts and lose track of each other. In 1998, Travis is teaching American History at the University of Southern California; he requires all of his jocks’ student essays to relate to sports figures, and, meanwhile, tries to get a grant to write a book, Alexander Hamilton and the Designated Hitter. He has also spent years rooming with his old Beckley roommate Gordon Dubois, who’s now a screenwriter for Argosy Entertainment, sort of, and begins scripting this very novel. Though in Splitsville, Gordo and Travis live together, albeit in separate parts of the house. Craig, meanwhile, has a law partnership with fellow Harvard grad Charleen Webb in Saratoga Springs, New York, wants to organize a teensy Freedom to Marry March on Washington, and loves Clayton Bergman, who runs a hardware business, gives Craig a platinum wedding ring—and they’re together 12 years. Both Travis and Craig have full lives, but Travis, sigh, finds something missing. Can Brigadoon be reborn? So Travis leaves Gordo and heads for Saratoga Springs. Once there, can he get Craig away from Clayton?

Gaily self-amused, told in tart memos, cheeky checklists, sighs, essays, legal briefs, and heartsick journal entries. Straights may nod off.

Pub Date: May 11, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-059583-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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