Underappreciated as a novelist, Maxwell does little to enhance his reputation by collecting his short fiction, a volume of stories written over the past 50 years. The complete contents of the justly praised Billy Dyer (1991)- -related stories that resemble Maxwell's novels—are reproduced here. And the last quarter of the collection reprints what Maxwell himself calls ``improvisations,'' a series of fractured fables originally written to entertain his wife. These slight modern morality tales derive whatever complexity they have by juxtaposing archaic diction and contemporary concerns, but they're mostly too formulaic. An industrious tailor can't appreciate life in the present; a carpenter breaks his vow to keep secrets and shatters a town's serenity; in a land of immortals, the people begin to commit suicide. At two or three pages each, these provide Maxwell little room to flex his literary muscle. But even the stories from Maxwell's first collection of fiction—mostly about Upper East Side Manhattanites who live in fear of the city's darker corners and escape to country houses—aren't that impressive. The stories about French travel and its disappointments seem like cautionary tales for the sophisticated traveler. In ``A Game of Chess,'' Maxwell is particularly caustic about boorish Americans from the heartland who can't understand their bohemian relations in New York. The best stories, like Maxwell's novels, are nostalgic, recalling a genteel bourgeois life in downstate Illinois in the earlier decades of the century. ``What Every Boy Should Know'' beautifully captures the pangs of adolescence as an awkward boy copes with sex and a demanding father. Maxwell waxes poetic about a charming walk-up in Manhattan's Murray Hill in ``The Thistles of Sweden'' and sorrowfully rues the decline of New York in ``The Lily-White Boys,'' a sour tale of a Christmas Eve burglary. If you've already read Billy Dyer, there's little here worth exploring, especially if you haven't yet enjoyed Maxwell's wonderful novels.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-43829-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1994

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.


Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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