An enjoyable tale that traces the unlikely rise of a good-hearted man surviving humble beginnings.

HOLLYWOOD VIA ORCHARD STREET

In this coming-of-age novel, a young man tries to attain his dreams through luck and pluck.

In Clark’s (That Woman, 2017, etc.) Depression-era tale, Charles Czerny has led a sheltered life. Now in his 20s, he shares a small, dingy apartment on the Lower East Side with his mother, who has become increasingly distant following the early death of her lover, the man Charles called Uncle. The only thing Charles inherited from Uncle was his truck, Blue. Charles uses Blue to deliver bundles of newspapers to newsboys, but he also aspires to become a reporter someday. The naïve Charles is soon also earning extra money by doing special jobs for the Irish mob, which protects the papers he delivers. Charles, who uses the nom de plume Bulldog, then gets in over his head by taking part in a convoluted plot to murder a theater critic who gave a bad review to a musical that starred the mob boss’s girlfriend. Worse yet, he falls for the starlet. To save her and himself from that kingpin, Charles recruits a rival gang, a Chinese tong, to intercede on their behalf. Will Charles make enough right moves to end up getting the girl and the career he craves? In this story that feels like a tale culled from the golden age of movies, Clark has created a real Horatio Alger–type character in Charles. What Charles lacks in book learning, he makes up for by reading and listening to those in the know. He can also read people. In other words, Charles makes his own luck, albeit sometimes by accident. He is a protagonist readers can root for. The other well-rounded characters are the leaders of the Chinese tong; the players attached to the Irish mob are more one-dimensional. Clark has paced his narrative well, slow enough that Charles’ relationships can grow organically yet not too poky. The novel’s atmosphere also gives readers a good feel for what was a difficult time to grow up in New York City. The result is a colorful snapshot of one man’s mission to pursue his ambitions, whatever the obstacles.

An enjoyable tale that traces the unlikely rise of a good-hearted man surviving humble beginnings.

Pub Date: July 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77519-151-3

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

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