A long overdue collection that speaks truly and well to Pushkin’s brilliance as a prose stylist as well as observer of the...

NOVELS, TALES, JOURNEYS

THE COMPLETE PROSE OF ALEXANDER PUSHKIN

Superb gathering of writings by the short-lived author Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), best known as a poet—but, argues translator Pevear, also “the true originator of Russian prose.”

Scholars will argue over whether Evgeny Onegin is novel or poem, but this anthology makes a clear distinction between verse and prose, then gathers all of Pushkin’s prose writings, down to a few delicious fragments. One of them, it seems, was enough to inspire Leo Tolstoy to build the novelistic world of Anna Karenina around just a few words; though prolific and seemingly capable of writing masterfully in any genre, Pushkin’s finished prose pieces are frustratingly few. Perhaps the best of them, the novel The Captain’s Daughter, is a study in fine detail: “Pugachev was sitting in an armchair on the porch of the commandant’s house. He was wearing a red Cossack kaftan trimmed with galloons. A tall sable hat with gold tassels was pulled down to his flashing eyes.” Like so much early modern Russian literature, that novel and Pushkin’s other tales sometimes seem exotic, sketches from a long-vanished world in which a tutor amuses himself by seducing “a fat and pockmarked wench and the one-eyed milkmaid Akulka” and a young woman, awakening, “beckoned to the maid and sent her for the dwarf.” Still, all the universal emotions and realities are in play, from jealousy to greed and overweening ambition, and Pevear and his longtime partner Volokhonsky render Pushkin’s words in an easy, conversational tone that is very far from the fustiness of the Constance Garnett renderings of old. The completed pieces are masterful, but the fragments are tantalizing; one wonders what Pushkin would have done had he lived to complete the piece that begins, “My fate is decided. I am getting married….”

A long overdue collection that speaks truly and well to Pushkin’s brilliance as a prose stylist as well as observer of the world.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-307-95962-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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