An evocative but slight fantasy about artists seeking fulfillment through art and faith.

The Sapphire Song

A parable about two young people drawn together by spiritual affinity.

In this short book by Pedersen (Sophia, 2013, etc.), set in a vaguely medieval place and time, an illiterate young man named Metaxaeus, working in a village with his parents and friends, is an instinctively, supremely talented sculptor. He knows “how to take from that fountain within and to soak up its knowledge and then how to communicate this truth through the medium of sculpting stone.” He’s mentored in this skill by a mysterious woman named Maya, who teaches him to “Learn with your whole soul how to carve in stone.” He keeps with him at all times a small sculpture of his own creation—an exquisite miniature bird carved from a jewel, which strikes even his workaday parents as life-changingly beautiful. Another exquisite, tiny sculpture is key to Pedersen’s other main character, a young woman named Akasha who lives in another village and has a nearly supernatural gift for storytelling (“she had learned to plunge deep into herself, and she saw things there, things she imagined that other people did not see”). When Metaxaeus decides to leave his village and travel to the capital city of his region, Pederson works to bring the two together in what turns out to be a lifelong spiritual journey. Overall, the author writes clearly and expressively. For example, the plot’s series of visions and revelations are followed by a cycle of prose poems called “The Stars in the Fall,” which continue the themes of revelation and serendipity that drive the main text (“Wisdom never works without a smile,” reads one typical line, “one which then bequeaths itself joyously to others”). But although the story’s main characters have enigmatic mentors and sympathetic natures, there isn’t much in the way of meaty dialogue. The book’s tone is also occasionally somewhat flat, and it relies too heavily on signs and wonders that may wear thin for readers who aren’t already enthusiastic about spiritual literature.

An evocative but slight fantasy about artists seeking fulfillment through art and faith. 

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4525-9745-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2015

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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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