A mixed bag of a novel that sometimes fails to titillate.

Golden Hand Sessions

A fictional exploration of the human id by a debut author.

Jenny is a 6-foot-tall sex therapist “built like Dolly Parton with legs like Tina Turner” who counsels men and women who engage in excessive masturbation: for men, it’s called “golden hand syndrome” and for women, “golden vibrator syndrome.” In short chapters such as “Case Study #16: Lisa, the Bartender,” Jenny plumbs the hidden areas of human sexuality and offers advice aimed to cure pathological self-eroticism. Jenny’s patients are a colorful lot; Jim, for example, is a Catholic priest with a thing for lingerie and liver. Like a Southern-style 100 Days of Sodom, Hobbs’ chronicle of characters’ sexual kinks offers a prurient consideration of a wide range of perversities. Some of them strain credibility, however, as when Frank, a film producer, wires his house with “waterproof cameras...placed inside the toilet” or when another character gruesomely misuses a penile pump. Hobbs’ imagination is inventive and mostly good-natured. However, some readers may find these erotic vignettes incongruous with the characters’ references to Scripture, as when the narrator notes a guiding principle of Jenny’s wardrobe selections: “she preferred dresses and skirts over slacks or jeans, as directed by the Bible.” Jenny’s list of do’s (such as an “Asian rub-and-tug massage center”) and don’ts (such as pornography) sometimes gets in the way of the naughty fun. Lastly, Jenny’s own erotic misadventures seem like pointless diversions—she marries, in succession, a gay man who has his mother cut Jenny’s hair to make her look “more desirable to him” and a violent man who likes chainsaws and the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The chatty prose succeeds, however, in creating a fun show for erotica fans.

A mixed bag of a novel that sometimes fails to titillate. 

Pub Date: April 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5053-7560-2

Page Count: 180

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2015

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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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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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