There are several excellent stories here—and they'd be stronger if divorced from the burden of living up to the anthology's...

STRANGERS AMONG US

TALES OF THE UNDERDOGS AND OUTCASTS

An anthology of speculative fiction through the lens of mental illness—stories of people whose mental quirks make them “outcasts and underdogs,” edited by Forest (Immunity to Strange Tales, 2012) and Law (Sword and Sorceress X, 1993).

The collection walks a difficult line, as the characters ostensibly all display some form of mental illness. Ostensibly—for in stories such as “The Culling,” by Kelley Armstrong, our protagonist reads as neurotypical save for the occasional mention of "hearing voices," but these voices aren't differentiated from your average internal narrative. Similarly, the lead of Rich Larson's “Carnivores” (an excellent story, otherwise) seems perfectly mentally healthy in a world of futuristic cruelty. James Alan Gardner's charming “The Dog and the Sleepwalker” also follows a man defined by superb common sense. If there is mental illness here, it lies with the twisted societies surrounding our heroes. Perhaps that's the point? Other stories present heroes whose mental illnesses really aren’t—the fanciful things they see turn out to be actually there, as in A.M. Dellamonica's rich “Tribes” and Sherry Peters' “Troubles,” which portrays a girl who's really a druid capable of seeing the fey rather than schizophrenic. These stories dodge the issue in a disingenuous fashion: certainly it's more uplifting to be a destined hero than delusional, but is this really mental illness? However, other stories do a masterful job of knitting legitimate and painful mental illnesses to characters who still retain agency and power: two standouts are Amanda Sun's “What Harm,” a poignant exploration of autism in a fairy-tale setting, and Hayden Trenholm's “Marion's War,” examining PTSD and the mental cost of war.

There are several excellent stories here—and they'd be stronger if divorced from the burden of living up to the anthology's theme.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-993-96964-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Laksa Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

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?

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?

more