A creatively original, character-driven companion volume fusing biographical sketches with gay sexuality.

THE MANDRAKES

A prequel explores the early lives of four gay men before they dramatically intersected.

Prolific author Jack (A High Country Tale, 2016, etc.) revisits the main characters at the center of his impressive preceding novel and presents their separate histories prior to becoming a close-knit group of friends and lovers. Split into four volumes, the engrossing saga devotes some attention to extraneous details but focuses a great deal on each man’s carnal coming-of-age. The compilation begins with Lucas Cevennes graphically describing his very first same-sex sexual encounter, an event he considers an “introduction to the Devil Incarnate.” Admitting his gay feelings early and spending his youth bound within the strict confines of a Christian upbringing, Luke pines for personal freedom while exploring other boys’ bodies at summer camp—with unrequited teenage affections blindly guided by his bulky “ever-ready snake.” Eventually, he undertakes the challenges of medical school. In the second section, Cal Broadhearst’s Southern youth born “of the blood of Princes” is distinguished by impressive manners and reserved behavior yet marred by episodes of extreme bullying. These attributes produce a refined and savvy black man talented at competitive wrestling and software engineering and masterful at “the erotic boogie and prance” of dance-floor gyrations. Jake Marshall’s third section depicts a bucolic Vermont heritage and a fatherless boyhood spoiled by a mean stepdad though greatly redeemed by male friends and frolicsome fishing trips. He is mentored by a neighboring elderly couple who invest in and promote his future in medicine. At college in Texas, Jake embraces his scholarly prowess and a newfound fondness for same-sex romance after meeting Cal. Jeremy Kell rounds out the vivid profiles as a boy born into an enormous brood of children who raises goats and becomes obsessed with a Jamaican “Rasta Mon.” Later, as a teenage father plagued in his young adulthood with “lonesomeness for a significant peer,” he braves the future with hope for his daughter and a loving male partner for himself. Fans of Jack’s original novel will be delighted to discover the humble and enticing beginnings of these four gay men, their backgrounds, and how their lives progressed up to and including their impactful intersection in A High Country Tale. The author takes his time with all of the quartet’s members, meticulously exploring their internal struggles and early ambitions as well as the ways their young lives become dramatically influenced by latent homosexuality and negatively hobbled by the strict religious leanings of parents and family members. While the narrative does have a tendency to be clunky, overwritten, or just plain cheesy in spots (Luke’s campground sexual curiosity was a “nascent stirring of endocrine undertones providing provocation,” while Cal’s libidinous “cobra informed the higher head”), Jack knows how to illustrate his characters well and make each one engaging on a variety of levels.

A creatively original, character-driven companion volume fusing biographical sketches with gay sexuality.

Pub Date: April 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9980990-4-0

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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