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MISS LUCY

A brilliant and imaginative tale of love, death, and literature.

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Orem (Killer of Crying Deer, 2010, etc.) delivers a fictionalized account of the life of Dracula author Bram Stoker and the incidents that led him to create one of literature’s greatest monsters.

How does a single story command the high and low, the beautiful and the ghastly, the sacred and the profane? Or, as this novel asks, how does a single man contain these multitudes? In flowing, lyrical, and sometimes-unsettling third-person narration, Orem offers dark speculations on the life and mind of Abraham “Bram” Stoker. As the novel tells it, Bram is haunted from a young age—first by his own childhood illness and then, possibly, by literal ghosts. Despite the fact that his father seemed to give up on the possibility that he’d thrive or succeed in life, Stoker eventually joins the Lyceum Theatre as an aide to renowned actor Henry Irving. But life behind the footlights is not all well, and although Bram gets the opportunity to mix with high society and literary idols such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Walt Whitman, and Oscar Wilde, he remains very much in Irving’s shadow. The book is at its most powerful when the distant narration combines with Bram’s psychology to create a feverish, even horrifying landscape of thought; on the one hand, Bram idolizes Irving and treasures his own proximity to greatness, but on the other, he’s sickened by his own lack of literary success and seems overcome by envy. He’s also shown to be torn between his wife, Florence—a beautiful, aristocratic woman who’s emblematic of the society he wishes to join—and Lujzi Sido, a sweatshop worker who lives in squalid conditions but who makes him feel more alive than anyone else does. Personal and historical parallels later appear in Stoker’s greatest work, as faith, class differences, violence, beauty, and death coalesce in the figure of Dracula. But intriguingly, where Bram sees himself in that tale remains a constantly moving target.

A brilliant and imaginative tale of love, death, and literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-940724-20-1

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Gival Press

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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

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