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

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MISS LUCY

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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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