Nonsense, largely, crafted to frame Fischer’s dead-on social observations and murderous wit, and if you’re in the mood, it’s...

VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE ROOM

An agoraphobe in London muses and reminisces. She has much to remember and ponder, most of it very funny indeed.

The latest excuse for a plot for Fischer (I Like Being Killed, 2000, etc.) to work his wit on is the morbid houseboundness of Oceane, a young dancer who found opportunity and support in Barcelona’s sex industry but who has since moved on to software, where she has made enough in licensing to live pleasantly in her own flat in a marginal but not life-threatening neighborhood. She doesn’t leave her building because she doesn’t have to and because it’s really repulsive in the streets these days. Oceane does do a bit of virtual traveling, and she makes trips to what she calls the “beach,” the common area downstairs where the mail sent to long-departed residents of the building sloshes around on the floor like so much flotsam. On one trip to the beach she meets Audley, a bill collector whose target left years ago. Oceane engages him to collect wages owed but unpaid by a business client, and then, when a letter from a ten-year-dead lover arrives, she sends Audley to Barcelona and farther to check that out. The dead letter trips memories of her days as a sex object that fill half the book, and effectively, since live sex is a funny subject and Fischer, when he’s on a roll, is about as funny as anyone writing today. Oceane’s colleagues are a mostly amiable lot. There are athletic lesbians from Dallas, a breathtakingly gorgeous and epically potent but totally self-involved bodybuilder (her partner in the show), and Heidi, who seems to be, well, a sexual black hole, a woman of spectacular gravity. Audley has his own story to tell involving the Bosnian war and, eventually, Oceane.

Nonsense, largely, crafted to frame Fischer’s dead-on social observations and murderous wit, and if you’re in the mood, it’s pretty wonderful.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58243-297-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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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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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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