First published in 1932, two years before its author died destitute in New York City, this delightful roman Ö clef about the Harlem Renaissance returns to print as an inaugural volume in Modern Library’s new series about that golden moment in American literary history. Thurman (b. 1902), better known for his novel about interracial prejudice, The Blacker the Berry (1929), was part of an intellectual group that included Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Alain Locke, and Countee Cullen, all of whom make cameo appearances (under aliases) in this spirited satire, which mostly takes aim at Locke’s much-celebrated notion of “the New Negro,” a concept Thurman mocks as too serious and uplifting. But he also turns his sharp wit against the character who most resembles himself, Raymond Taylor, a pretentious young writer who fancies himself a Nietzchean individualist, above mere racial concerns, and dedicated only to art. Thurman’s self-deprecating humor focuses on Taylor’s easy cynicism, as well as on his daily dissipation at “Niggerati Manor,” his name for the apartment building in Harlem where many of the story’s aspiring artists spend their time swilling gin. Owned by good-hearted Euphoria Blake, a businesswoman who once harbored artistic aspirations of her own, the apartment house is also home to Paul Arbian, a decadent, bisexual artist dedicated to the spirit of Oscar Wilde; Eustace, a singer who prefers classical music to the spirituals everyone wants him to sing; and Pelham Gaylord, a servile wannabe, whose own pathetic poetry serves as evidence in a rape case, and also underlines the pretense in the effusions of his role-models, Raymond and Paul. After a sober gathering of the literati, Euphoria decides to close the “miscegenated bawdy house,” another victim of well-intentioned ideas. Thurman’s clever portrait gallery reflects many of the competing notions of its time—between the masses and individuality, between art and uplift, between civilization and primitivism, between separatism and assimilation. But what truly animates this smart fiction is the timeless belief that ideas have consequences.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-75232-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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

Did you like this book?