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

BEST NEW AMERICAN VOICES 2000

Twenty previously unpublished stories, chosen by debut guest editor Wolff from entries submitted by various collegiate writing programs, community workshops, prison writing projects, and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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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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