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 years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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