An engrossing, hallucinatory relationship story.

OPEN MY EYES

A young man struggles to articulate his chaotic but numbed feelings in this debut novel.

Seventeen-year-old Eddie falls headlong for Elizabeth, a freshman who plays in the school band with him. As they begin dating and grow closer, he’s as awkward and self-conscious as he is earnest about his first relationship: “In the beginning was Elizabeth, and Elizabeth was in light, and Elizabeth was light.” However, it turns out that circumstances have effectively blurred the line between fantasy and reality for Eddie; his father died years ago, and to this day, the young man addresses his thoughts to the void where his dad should be. His mother responds to the loss by clinging to Eddie in ways that slowly become sinister. And since the fateful car accident, he’s been put on mind-altering medication for unspecified reasons, which causes him to lurch through life in a physical, mental, and emotional fog: He assumed the medication was punishment for his disobedience, he explains, “the longest punishment in childhood history.” However, Elizabeth cuts through his detachment, shining in his memories like a divine being. Yet the significance of her presence in his life raises the stakes of their relationship in untenable ways. Typical hurdles, such as uncomfortable meet-the-parents dinners, assume a mythical awfulness in Eddie’s fragmented neuroses and visions, and he can barely enjoy his newfound happiness under the looming fear that he’ll somehow taint or pollute it. Hahn writes in a clipped, frenetic manner that effectively conveys his narrator’s mental state. Recurring images of snow, fire, and blood give the book religious overtones that feel almost medieval despite Eddie’s refusal to attend church with his mother. Other symbols crowd the story but in a manner that rarely feels heavy-handed; in a particularly engaging scene, for example, Eddie and Elizabeth argue as they watch an inflatable fun house collapse on a group of screaming children. Collectively, the author’s choices create a satisfying sensory experience as the protagonist seeks a real and present version of himself.

An engrossing, hallucinatory relationship story.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947041-28-8

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Running Wild Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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

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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

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