Both the imperatives of multiculturalism and a proliferation of genuine literary talent have stimulated a contemporary...


Twenty previously unpublished stories, chosen by debut guest editor Wolff from entries submitted by various collegiate writing programs, community workshops, prison writing projects, and miscellaneous competitions, located in the US and Canada.

All the tales are more than formally and stylistically competent, few betray any unduly heavy influences, and several would stand out in any fictional company. The immigrant experience is explored with wry compassion in Shimon Tanaka’s unusual story (“Video Ame”) of Asian-American siblings adrift between their cultural origins and their strident new country; Kate Small’s bleak portrayal of a decimated Kosovar family relocated in Oregon (“The B-Zone Open”); and novelist William Gay’s “The Paperhanger, . . .” (its full Updikean title is much longer), in which a Pakistani woman’s resentful experience of America is imagined with nightmarish intensity. More general contemporary concerns dominate David Benioff’s [see XXXX] lusty tale of a rock-music agent unwisely involved with some certifiably weird new talent (“When the Nines Roll Over”); Merrill Feitell’s savvy scrutiny of a 30-ish urbanite whose imminent path to the altar is sidetracked by a forthright teenaged girl (“Bike New York!”), and especially Ladette Randolph’s subtle study of the complex “glimpse of transcendence” experienced by a coed who “sits” for her eccentric mentor’s even more eccentric house-pets (“The Girls”). Even better are Ana Menendez’s deeply sympathetic picturing of culture-shocked Latin American refugees in Miami (“In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd”), Adam Johnson’s dry revelation of passive young slackers thrust incongruously into thrill-seeking and “wild life” (“Cliff Gods of Acapulco”), and, most notably, “The Hatbox,” by Jennifer Vanderbes: a moving novella that gradually unfolds the interrelated ramifications of a secret that originates in East Africa and thereafter possesses, and poisons, the lives of three generations of women.

Both the imperatives of multiculturalism and a proliferation of genuine literary talent have stimulated a contemporary plethora of story anthologies. This lively volume is one of the best of them.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-601322-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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