Smartly done, at times deeply felt.



Editor Bright asks three writers to face a life-changing sexual event.

Most skilled here is William Harrison (the magnetic Mountains of the Moon, the magnificent The Blood Latitudes), who often writes about Africa when not presenting a futuristic action fantasy like The Roller Ball Murders. In “Shadow of a Man,” set in South Africa the year before Mandela’s release, Texan photographer Cal Vega is invited to Johannesburg to photograph an elderly retired general; his daughter wants the picture. Cal is a philosopher of the camera and has intriguing if cynical views about his art. Ellen, the general’s daughter, seduces Cal and takes him off to her beachfront home. Her sexual enjoyment turns on fantasy: she’s 15 and Cal is her 14-year-old brother, and so on. She takes him to a big party, mixed whites and blacks, and the real object of her seduction turns out to be that she wants many pictures of those at the party, because one is a mole. All turns tragic, and Cal’s thoughts focus on the shadow within, and on his stupid, stupid, stupid philosophy. Greg Boyd, relating “The Widow,” splits his page in half and on the top tells of “Karen Regent,” a widow who secretly writes a pornographic novel to make up for her nonorgasmic life, while on the bottom Boyd simultaneously tells her husband’s story after discovering and reading the book on the wife’s hard drive. In Karen’s novel, she goes off to France to recover from grief, discovers masturbation, and is seduced by a French photographer. In the sub-story, the shocked husband, not dead, tells of reading his wife Mandy’s tale and his rock-hard erection. Rawest of all, Tsaurah Litzky’s “The Motion of the Ocean” leaps from her brother’s bar mitzvah to 30 years later as the heroine more or less makes sense of her sex life while fitting photos into a fat new album. More sex in this one than in the other two combined.

Smartly done, at times deeply felt.

Pub Date: July 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4549-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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

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