The juxtaposition of fact and fiction makes an engaging game of each piece, while Silverstein’s eye for oblique detail and...


A frustrated journalist goes where nothing happens, theorizing that when something does, he’ll be there to get the scoop, in this Quixotic quest for the meaning of truth and untruth.

Bored with covering city-council and school-board meetings for the west Texas Big Bend Sentinel, he investigates local lore like the mysterious disappearance of Ambrose Bierce and the devil’s alleged residence in an area cave. With the possibility of a feature in National Geographic, he quits the paper to concentrate full time on his big story: the drought. When work on the story founders, he takes a temporary job as a driver for a New Yorker photographer assigned to take a single photograph that sums up the city where George W. Bush became an oilman. Chagrined to learn a New Yorker writer has scooped him on his drought story, he moves to New Orleans and writes poetry. An American Idol–style poetry contest lures him to Vegas, where he joins the ranks of hundreds of other bizarre and desperate wannabe poets. But semi-fictionalized Silverstein’s journalistic yen won’t die, and his credentials, however dubious, get him contracted to write about a treasure hunt based on a map purported to originate with Jean Lafitte, only to find himself literally blindfolded by the party’s paranoid leader and told he’s forbidden to publish anything about the trip. It’s frustrations like these, along with his own journalistic shortcomings (advance research is not his strength) and a talent for either reproducing or inventing hilarious dialogue, that make these stories a self-deprecating, rollicking picaresque following the loose design of a real-life career that has included covering a bloody Mexican road race and the opening of the first McDonald’s in Zacatecas. He ends with a Borgesian tale of a shorthand expert’s search for his mysteriously vanished family, another oddly comical story that sticks to the theme of the murky lines where writing, reality, fact and fiction intersect.

The juxtaposition of fact and fiction makes an engaging game of each piece, while Silverstein’s eye for oblique detail and an accessible style in the tradition of adventurer-journalists like Samuel Clemens, Susan Orlean and Hunter S. Thompson brings him journalistic success where he claims to fail.

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-07646-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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.


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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