An honest, engaging tale of living through war.

COUNTERS

In Taylor’s debut novel, the skies over Vietnam become a rite of passage for an American soldier.

Quiet and impressionable, 24-year-old Steve Mylder volunteers for a tour in Vietnam after graduating from the Colorado Air Force Academy and serving six months in a squadron in England. With little world knowledge beyond his Arizona youth and officer’s training, Steve comes of age in the midst of military life at Danang Air Base. The young lieutenant’s aircraft is an F-4C Phantom II, “a two-pilot plane with an aircraft commander in the front seat to do most of the flying and a pilot in the backseat to do almost everything except pilot. Steve was in the back.” Most of his buddies’ life goals amount to flying a tour over Vietnam–consisting of 100 counters, or missions–and returning for a second tour to become a front-seater. Others are more ambitious, like Mike Ross, Steve’s bunkmate, who dreams of becoming a U.S. senator, or wild man Avery Aughton, a future chief of staff who falls madly in love with a Vietnamese beauty who he spots while flying 50 feet overhead. The protagonist’s only future goal is getting out of Vietnam alive. Adhering to age-old superstitions, his lucky charm for survival is newly grown peach fuzz, an “invisible protomustache.” Mission after mission, Steve checks off his counters, spending nights submerged in poker and hijinks with his friends at the DOOM club bar, surviving rocket attacks on Danang and penning dispatches as a war correspondent for his hometown newspaper. Author Taylor, a veteran of Danang, brings personal authenticity to this fictional account of Vietnam air combat. From soldier’s soldier Col. Sanger to Maj. Scott, who makes the life-or-death decisions around here,” and sub-Lt. Sam, the base’s collie mascot, the book is studded with rich, often juxtaposing characters that touch on philosophical questions of war. There’s a vivid contrast between swaggering language and graceful, even prose, which is underscored with deep internal subtext. The author brings a balanced and original perspective to a genre too often dominated by the action.

An honest, engaging tale of living through war.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-595-46427-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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