VANISHING POINTS

Throughout this Australian writer's harsh-to-playfully satiric novels (Hunting the Wild Pineapple, 1991, etc.), the massive idiocy of institutionalized greed—an individual's or a country's—is dismembered sinew-by-socket. Here, in two novellas, two solitary ones observe Evil on the march, and both have moments of smashing revenge. Both ex-academic Mac Hope, divorced and over the middle-age hill (in ``The Genteel Poverty Bus Company''), and Julie Truscott (in ``Investing the Weather''), married to the awful Clifford, find their evil encapsulated in one nasty, crude, and cruel personage, the scourge of civilized values and of the purity of the natural world—the Developer. In this case, Clifford. It is Clifford who is ``turning into a plastic Disneyworld'' pristine islands like the one opposite Mac's hermitage where Mac courts solitude and peace. When Mac blasts music (Wagner or Bartok are good choices) across the water at three in the morning—sometimes to slap back at the Club Med-type of disco beat—the battle is on. Mac will lose his own island, of course, while he still muses on the nature of solitude and his earlier search with lonely others in his bus-tour days—and in spite of help from another lonely isolate, a kind of young scholar gypsy who leaves before Mac heads for ``the void.'' Meanwhile, Clifford's wife, Julie, hands philandering Clifford a blow when she simply leaves the house and three kids to him and takes on a journalist's job. But rankling cruelties and loss of the kids bring her to despair—and eventually to a small mission run by three saintly nuns in a pure and quiet semiwilderness. Then comes Clifford, resort plans in his pocket. Clifford's end is quite horrible—and satisfying. A bit like the wickedly fun and satiric Fay Weldon. Sometimes cerebrally overengaged in style, but always fresh and inventive.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 0-399-13770-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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