Eight stories from a Pushcart Prize winner and author of Mountain Blood (1985) and Track of the Giant (1990). ``Chiquita Banana Muy Bonita,'' the lead story, is about a mildly clever sting operation, perpetrated upon norteamericanos by desperately poor people, in an Andean city. From it one can only conclude: tourists, beware; there is little character development. The longest tale, ``The Iron Doughnut,'' about a produce clerk who gets dragged to an art class and inadvertently founds a new movement, is a consistently amusing sendup of performance art, and it's the only piece here with a likable protagonist. ``Gorepac'' ventures into science fiction with a kind of computer-game variation on Ray Bradbury's ``The Veldt,'' but does seem to fit into the collection since several of the stories have a surreal edge. Baker's most accomplished effort may be ``Stealing Home,'' about a visiting professor's accidental rendezvous with a high- school classmate from 20 years before. She invites him to a dinner- from-hell in her very up-to-date, and yet familiar, suburb, where no one is happy and every dream has gone sour. She grows tipsy and attempts to seduce him, at which moment her son, an ordinary lout, and her husband, a failed baseball player, enter the room. In the denouement, we learn of the professor's rather severe limitations as well. Finally, in ``Jogger's Reef,'' Baker takes on the fitness madness of California, where he teaches. Not a distinguished collection, but Baker is in tune with the contemporary scene, and his tone—sly, satirical but not savage- -goes down easily.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-8262-0853-3

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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