Full of stereotyping and waspishness, sure, but a welcome pleasure from an old master and the best from his pen in a long...

BACK TO BLOOD

Wolfe (A Man in Full, 1998, etc.) returns to fine form with this zingy, mile-a-minute novel of life in the weird confines of Miami.

As if the 45 years from Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to here hadn’t passed, Wolfe is back to some old tricks, including an ever-shifting, sometimes untrustworthy point of view, dizzying pans from one actor to another and rat-a-tat prose. Some of his post-yuppie characters might have been extras from Bonfire of the Vanities, while the hero of the piece has the endless self-regard of Gordo Cooper in The Right Stuff—but no matter where they figure on the social ladder or tax bracketing scheme, they’re mystified by one another. The tale opens with Mac the Knife, a 40-something fleshpot behind the wheel of a hybrid car who, scarcely a dozen pages in, falls afoul of a tough Cubana: “Far from shrinking under Mac’s attack, the beautiful rude bitch came two steps closer…and said, in English without raising her voice, ‘Why you speet when you talk?’ ” Cuban and Anglo, Russian and Jew, rich and poor: All of Miami is a meeting place that very often turns into a battleground, over the carnage of which ranges Wolfe’s nominal hero, a waterborne cop named Nestor Camacho, who has his work cut out for him. That’s especially true when he tries to blend in with the beach bimbettes here and the retired New Yorkers there, and though he tries (for, as Wolfe astutely observes, “Walking nonchalantly in a crouch—it couldn’t be done”), he always cuts a fine and heroic figure. Wolfe’s book goes on long, but never too long, and though he often strays into ethnic-clash territory staked out by John Sayles, he makes Miami his own as a kind of laboratory of future possibilities, some dystopian and some not, all ripe for lampooning.

Full of stereotyping and waspishness, sure, but a welcome pleasure from an old master and the best from his pen in a long while.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-03631-3

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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