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ANATOMIES

Nothing astonishing here; just a gifted purveyor of American short fiction working on her craft and offering up the results.

A promising debut collection of short fiction and other ephemera from McCarty (English/ Salisbury Univ.).

The author offers a surprising diversity of tone scattered among the kinds of solid short stories that emerge from places like the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The first of three distinct sections, “Animalia,” strongly represents melancholic remembrances. The book opens with the title story, a travelogue about crisscrossing New York City during a hot summer. The next story, “Fellowship," concerns a teenage girl who's dealing with her parents’ imminent divorce while simultaneously finding sexual frustration with the abstinent Christian boy to whom she’s attached herself. “Indirect Object” describes an uncomfortable encounter between a tutor and the father of one of his students. Another, “The Fat of the Land,” is about what it’s like to become soft when exchanging Manhattan for Iowa. The middle section, “Histology,” is brief, as are the flash fictions included within. They’re slight experiments like “Passive Aggressive,” which lays out all the reasons a woman is not speaking to her partner in advance of a girls’ weekend in Las Vegas. The final third, “Bacterium,” is where McCarty gets far more experimental with her storytelling. “Field Reports” amusingly examines a sexual encounter in the form of a lab report detailing blood alcohol levels, costuming, and body posture. The social satire “Another Zombie Story” takes aim at the deadening of life through technology. The final few stories fall back on more Midwestern slice-of-life moments centered on brash, masculine protagonists familiar to anyone who grew up in rural America. The collection sums itself up with “Anamesis: An Epilogue,” a kind of self-survey that notes a variety of conditions ranging from “Consistently underhydrated” to “One failed relationship ending in death.”

Nothing astonishing here; just a gifted purveyor of American short fiction working on her craft and offering up the results.

Pub Date: June 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941143-03-2

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Aforementioned Productions

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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