The two versions, though, are useful to students of Rand’s work—and there’s a dissertation waiting in her use of the stilted...

IDEAL

Atlas yawned.

Someone somewhere, an acolyte or junior editor, thought it was a good idea to pull up a novel that Rand, the late cult writer and Social Security recipient, had kept in a drawer—and kept there for good reason, having tried the story in both prose and drama forms and preferred the latter. The setup is one of those Death Takes a Holiday morality plays so beloved in the days before Ernest Hemingway taught writers how to be vigorous: a Hollywood star, wanted for murder and on the lam, decides to test the adoration of six fans who had written her adoring letters—and, being a Howard Roark in furs, finds them wanting. Penned one, “Do you wonder why I am writing all this to you? It is because when I look at you on the screen, I know what it is that I want of life.” Yes, but is it what Kay Gonda wants? No, and what Kay Gonda wants, Kay Gonda gets. Kay, natch, has reason to be disappointed: she kills with kindness, like a lioness thinning a herd, but one unappreciative lumpenprole (“Aw, shut yer old face!”) dares hint at the possibility of turning her in for the fat reward offered in light of her crime. (And was it a crime? Ah, dear reader….) One character is a socialist on the way to repentance, another a cynic, another a soul-saver: they’re not characters but types, in trademark Rand fashion—for Rand, though certainly no socialist, traded heavily in social-realist symbols. The play version is a touch more successful if only because it’s a touch less talky (says Kay, imperiously cutting to the chase: “You can throw me out, if you wish. You can call the police, if you prefer. Only do so now.”). Still, neither leaps from the page to scream in testimonial to the author’s genius.

The two versions, though, are useful to students of Rand’s work—and there’s a dissertation waiting in her use of the stilted possessive. Otherwise, a mere curio.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-451-47555-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: New American Library

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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