A tale about the difficulty of communication that suffers from that same problem.


An unnamed man and woman reunite to talk about life, love, and what went wrong in this debut novella.

A woman texts a man out of the blue to meet and talk. He agrees. “Let’s start from the end,” he says as they drive around in his car, get food, and attempt to say the things that need to be said. But conversation proves harder than he imagined. They make small talk about his daughter, movies, and television shows. Sometimes they say nothing at all. Then one of them makes an effort: “This time he broke the silence and asked her, ‘Do you know anything about nothing?’ Now she let the question sink in and after an elongated pause replied, ‘Nothing.’ This infuriated him and he said, ‘You are not allowed to skip it as I want to know what you know rather than what not.’ ” They pull into a park and walk around in the night, discussing the purpose of lies, the momentary nature of life, and the pressure of expectations. They drive to a graveyard, finally at ease with each other, and try to describe the hollowness that they feel in their lives. Is one night long enough to reveal everything in the human heart? Is such an act even possible with someone you love? The novella has an intriguing premise and a simple, clear structure, and one could imagine a version of it that gets at the universal need for closure following a significant relationship. But Gupta places unnecessary constraints on himself by refusing to allow the characters to be specific people. The unnamed protagonists converse in a manner that is likewise anonymous, avoiding references to particular individuals or events in favor of abstract philosophical discussions. These talks are made all the more difficult to follow due to the author’s shaky, obfuscating syntax (which is accurately reflected in the work’s odd title): “There was some ad playing on the radio in a low volume giving a background score to dilute the friction. Every word wanting to come out seemed fake and hollow. His phone was resting in front of him and it reminded him of the text she sent today, ‘Can we talk till we have nothing to talk?’ ” As a result, the story feels fractured and self-indulgent rather than illuminating.

A tale about the difficulty of communication that suffers from that same problem.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64587-244-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Notion Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

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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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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...


Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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