A sharp and intriguing tale about a gay draftee in the ’60s.

GREEN

A novel tells the story of a gay Army recruit in the Vietnam era.

In 1967, Tim Halladay has just graduated from college when he gets his draft notice in the mail. His request for a deferment to attend the Yale School of Drama is denied, and he refuses to employ his only other out—the fact that he’s gay. Even straight men are “checking the box” to avoid military service, but Halladay refuses to do the same even if he can’t explain why: “For what? To prove something…that I was as good as the next guy…I would never ‘check the box’ to get out of serving in the military.” The war in Vietnam means this decision may cost him his life, but he nevertheless reports to the Army Training Center at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. From the beginning he is derided as a rich kid and college boy by his fellow recruits, none of whom seem any more pleased to be there than he is. Despite their differences, friendships are formed, and through the rigors of basic training, Halladay experiences a camaraderie that is both alien and comforting. He works to make a place for himself in the military hierarchy, but he can only keep his identity hidden for so long. It may not be Vietnam that brings him down but rather his own sexual past. Narrated by Halladay in the first person, Baker’s (Paperwhite Narcissus, 2014, etc.) prose is fluid and full of personality, packed with humor and astute observations about the soldier’s world and the characters who inhabit it. His treatment of the culture of the Army is particularly entertaining, full of nicknames, machismo, and physicality that take on added meaning given the protagonist’s hidden orientation. This is not a tale about war; Halladay never makes it that far. Rather, this is a story about the military at home: the manner in which it forces people into its structures and the ways in which it is and isn’t a microcosm of society. Halladay makes for an adept and compelling guide through this environment.

A sharp and intriguing tale about a gay draftee in the ’60s.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59021-672-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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