MOMENTS OF FAVOR

A debut novel chronicling how a Manhattan musician of the Yo Dude Generation abandons his museand, presumably, his deeper, truer selffor the seductions of celebrity, corporate law, and a bride in a Bergdorf Goodman wedding gown. Whether Peter Bram, the bright, well-educated son of a Westchester doctor, ever could have become the Bruce Springsteen of suburban New York remains up in the air: as the novel opens, he's already contemplating his ``stillborn life,'' working on never-to-be-completed songs, and recalling his one brief shining moment two years prior when he opened for Jackson Browne. And, alas, at this precise moment of vulnerability two bad influences assert themselves. The first is Michael Marr, ``America's prince,'' patterned on John Kennedy, Jr., who welcomes Peter into his coterie, making him feel like a specially trusted friend, all the while draining away Peter's will to do anything on his own. The second is pretty Lee ``I want to lead a charmed life'' Holt, a veritable technician in bed who starts having orgasms only after Peter agrees to go to law school. Peter is at once sickened by and attracted to the life these two lay out before himthough at the promptings of Karina, who sells earrings and T-shirts on the street, he veers re-embraces his earlier ambitions for just long enough to play one more gig. But then it's back to torts, Lee, and sycophancy when Peter realizes that he is after all just a ``nice normal kid from Brooklyn Heights and Larchmont.'' As a character, Peter remains fuzzy at the center, which is why it doesn't seem worth shedding too many tears over his big sellout. Still, Bergner touches on some interesting complexities (particularly in the Peter-Michael relationship), and covers some of the Bright Lights, Big City territory without ever seeming panderingly trendy.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-70457-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1991

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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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