“...things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired,”
December 4, 2015 7:20 AM   Subscribe

Debate erupts as Hanya Yanagihara's editor takes on critic over bad review of A Little Life. [The Guardian] The editor of Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling novel A Little Life has taken to the pages of the New York Review of Books to defend his author from a review that claimed the novel “duped” its readers “into confusing anguish and ecstasy, pleasure and pain”.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and the National book award in the US, the novel tells the story of four college friends in New York, one of whom, Jude, is revealed to have had an “unspeakable” childhood. It has split reviewers: the New Yorker said it “feels elemental, irreducible – and, dark and disturbing though it is, there is beauty in it”, while Alex Preston in the Observer called it “a devastating read that will leave your heart, like the Grinch’s, a few sizes larger”. But writing in the New York Review of Books this month, the critic and author Daniel Mendelsohn found that “the abuse that Yanagihara heaps on her protagonist is neither just from a human point of view nor necessary from an artistic one”, and that “Yanagihara’s novel has duped many into confusing anguish and ecstasy, pleasure and pain”.
Related:

- A Striptease Among Pals by Daniel Mendelsohn [The New York Review of Books]
But all “closure” isn’t necessarily mawkish: it’s what gives stories aesthetic and ethical significance. The passage that struck me as significant, by contrast, was one in which the nice law professor expounds one day in class on the difference between “what is fair and what is just, and, as important, between what is fair and what is necessary.” For a novel in the realistic tradition to be effective, it must obey some kind of aesthetic necessity—not least, that of even a faint verisimilitude. The abuse that Yanagihara heaps on her protagonist is neither just from a human point of view nor necessary from an artistic one.
‘Too Hard…To Take’, Gerald Howard, reply by Daniel Mendelsohn [The New York Review of Books]
I don’t object to Daniel Mendelsohn’s disliking my author Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life [NYR, December 3]. Fair’s fair in the critical sweepstakes, and it is a challenging and demanding book that asks a lot of its readers in respect to stamina and facing up to some ugly (imagined) facts. What I do object to, however, is his implication that my author has somehow, to use his word, “duped” its readers into feeling the emotions of pity and terror and sadness and compassion.
- The Subversive Brilliance of “A Little Life” by Jon Micaud [The New Yorker]
But the clearest sign that “A Little Life” will not be what we expect is the gradual focus of the text on Jude’s mysterious and traumatic past. As the pages turn, the ensemble recedes and Jude comes to the fore. And with Jude at its center, “A Little Life” becomes a surprisingly subversive novel—one that uses the middle-class trappings of naturalistic fiction to deliver an unsettling meditation on sexual abuse, suffering, and the difficulties of recovery. And having upset our expectations once, Yanagihara does it again, by refusing us the consolations we have come to expect from stories that take such a dark turn.
- Scar tissue: Is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara more than the sum of its parts? by Alex Clark [New Statesman]
The problem is not what the novel makes you feel but what it makes you think. In my case, I felt engaged, compelled to read further, caught up in something; I also felt dismay, disbelief, pity, horror. But at the end of 736 pages, many of which I suspect could have been edited out without compromising the novel’s directness or its power, my thoughts revolved around the creation and prosecution of the novel, why Yanagihara had written it in the way that she had.
- A Little Life: The Great Gay Novel Might Be Here by Garth Greenwell [The Atlantic]
To understand the novel’s exaggeration and its intense, claustrophobic focus on its characters’ inner lives requires recognizing how it engages with aesthetic modes long coded as queer: melodrama, sentimental fiction, grand opera. The book is scaled to the intensity of Jude’s inner life, and for long passages it forces the reader to experience a world that’s brutally warped by suffering. Again and again A Little Life conveys Jude’s sense of himself through elaborate metaphor: he is “a scrap of bloodied, muddied cloth,” “a blank, faceless prairie under whose yellow surface earthworms and beetles wriggled,” “a scooped out husk.” His memories are “hyenas,” his fear “a flock of flapping bats,” his self-hatred a “beast.” This language infects those closest to him, so that for Willem, learning about his childhood is “plunging an arm into the snake- and centipede-squirming muck of Jude’s past.” In its sometimes grueling descriptions of Jude’s self-harm and his perceptions of his own body, the book reminds readers of the long filiation between gay art and the freakish, the abnormal, the extreme—those aspects of queer culture we’ve been encouraged to forget in an era that’s increasingly embracing gay marriage and homonormativity.
- How I Wrote My Novel: Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara [Vulture.com]
One of the things I wanted to do with this book was create a protagonist who never gets better. I also wanted the narrative to have a slight sleight-of-hand quality: The reader would begin thinking it a fairly standard post-college New York City book (a literary subgenre I happen to love), and then, as the story progressed, would sense it was becoming something else, something unexpected.
- A Stubborn Lack of Redemption, an interview with Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life by Adalena Kavanagh [Electric Literature]
AK: The way you reveal Jude’s childhood is relentless and seems to mirror Jude’s inability to forget what happened to him, despite the immense success he achieves in his life. In this way you resist the comfortable narrative arc of abuse followed by healing. Jude resists therapy, to the frustration of his friends and family (and this reader!), and one of the main questions the book seems to address is whether talk therapy works—what do you think the limits of therapy are?

HY: One of the things I wanted to do with this book is create a character who never gets better. And, relatedly, to explore this idea that there is a level of trauma from which a person simply can’t recover. I do believe that really, we can sustain only a finite amount of suffering. That amount varies from person to person and is different, sometimes wildly so, in nature; what might destroy one person may not another. So much of this book is about Jude’s hopefulness, his attempt to heal himself, and I hope that the narrative’s momentum and suspense comes from the reader’s growing recognition — and Jude’s — that he’s too damaged to ever truly be repaired, and that there’s a single inevitable ending for him.
- Sessions with a Poker by Christian Lorentzen [London Review of Books]
‘Yanagihara’s rendering of Jude’s abuse never feels excessive or sensationalist,’ the novelist Jon Michaud wrote. Excess, however, seems to be the point. Yanagihara has said that she sees Jude as a survivor for whom recovery from abuse is impossible. As for sensationalism, it’s true that there’s a sterile quality to her descriptions of Jude’s abuse: the phrase used is always ‘had sex’, and the only reference to male anatomy I caught in the book’s 700 pages is a joke among grad students about ‘micro-penises’. Yanagihara’s prose at the start is clean and serviceable, if dull. Her go-to flourish is the simile: the skin on Jude’s back is ‘an awful, unnatural topography, the skin stretched as glossy and taut as a roasted duck’; one of his wounds is ‘like a foetus’s mouth’; the friends themselves are ‘a fleet of parrots shaking their bright-coloured feathers at one another, presenting themselves to their peers without fear or guile’. Another of Yanagihara’s tics is to provide arbitrary credentials for characters who enter the story and vanish within the space of a sentence: ‘Julia’s father, a retired pulmonologist, and brother, an art history professor’. But as the book plunges on through its ahistorical decades the style becomes more and more breathless, perhaps a reflection of its swelling romantic theme. While Jude’s ‘level of suffering is extraordinary, it’s not, technically, implausible,’ Yanagihara has said. ‘Everything in this book is a little exaggerated: the horror, of course, but also the love.’
- How ‘A Little Life’ Became a Sleeper Hit by Jennifer Maloney [The Wallstreet Journal]
On Twitter, readers have said “A Little Life” is so painful that at times they have had to put it down, weeping. They have called it “upsetting,” “harrowing” and “traumatic.” But many also say it’s the best book they have ever read. Natalie Cantrell, a 26-year-old production manager in Austin, Texas, posted a message on Twitter as she sat crying in the airport on the way home from a weekend with her husband in Savannah, Ga. She had just finished the book. Christine Hennessey, who works at an advertising firm in Wilmington, N.C., read it with her book club and joined a Facebook group a friend had formed “for folks who read it, were devastated by it, and needed to talk about it,” she said. “I had no idea I could produce so many tears,” she wrote on her blog. “Maybe this is a strange sort of recommendation—‘Read this book! You’ll never be the same! It will break your heart into a thousand pieces!’”
- Why Is the Intensely Bleak A Little Life Filled With Luscious Culinary Detail? [Slate]
There are the gougères Jude makes for a party at his apartment on Lispenard Street. There is sourdough bread and there are herbed shortbreads. There is walnut cake and persimmon cake and carrot cake and crab cakes. There are beautiful cookies. There are roasted figs served over ice cream and topped with honey. There is broiled halibut trout “stuffed with other stuff.” To drink we have limonata, water, prosecco, and iced tea. We have grilled corn with zucchini and tomatoes. We have poached eggs. We have ramps. (“I’m going to the farmers’ market to pick up those ramps.”) But the food in A Little Life is not all illusory and tempting and deadly. Consider Harold, Jude’s adoptive father. He’s among the book’s most believable voices, and one of his traits is “a tendency to make Thanksgiving more complicated than it needed to be.” Up until the end of the book, he always seems to fall short of his culinary ambitions, botching all the elaborate recipes he gamely attempts. But as Willem observes, Harold’s obsession isn’t really about the food—it’s about Jude. “It’s his way of telling you he cares about you enough to try to impress you,” says Willem, “without actually saying he cares about you.” This is a vision of cooking as caring, not as fairy tale temptation, and it is one of the few comforts of A Little Life. Though the promised feast—the cottage in the forest, the Thanksgiving dinner—may never materialize, at least Harold tries to make it real.
posted by Fizz (30 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just finished this novel about a week ago and it does live up to its hype. I commented on it an another thread last week. I'm still thinking a lot about the novel and the way it does not look away from the subject of sexual/physical abuse. Many critics have argued that it's almost written in a pornographic kind of way. I'm not sure if its that extreme but I appreciate that she tackles the subject in such a rigorous way.

Some subjects in life are difficult, uncomfortable, and painful. Sometimes you have to observe and witness these accounts (even the fiction ones) because they bring focus to issues that need to be addressed. It's not for everyone but it is book that is important and worthy of the attention it has been receiving. There is also a beautiful story of friendship and love at the center of this novel. I laughed and I cried. My favourite book of the year.
posted by Fizz at 7:25 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


This book is incredibly divisive. I don't remember the last time a novel drew up such strong feelings from its readers.. Among my friends who have read it, we went from "agree to disagree" to "I respect your opinion, but it's completely wrong" so quickly that I'm loathe to discuss it with anyone else.

That said, Christian Lorentzen's review(London Review of Books, above) probably best summed up my feelings about it.
posted by thivaia at 7:48 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Among my friends who have read it, we went from "agree to disagree" to "I respect your opinion, but it's completely wrong" so quickly that I'm loathe to discuss it with anyone else.

It's difficult to recommend as well. I've struggled with how to tell people that a 700+ novel about four friends from NYC navigated adulthood which confronts issues of: sexual/physical abuse, depression, cutting, etc. "No, you have to read it, trust me, it's so good. I know that sounds weird given what I just told you but ugh...it's hard to describe."
posted by Fizz at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


It took me a while to read- not because of it's length, but because the amount of suffering the main character endures is, frankly, unbearable. I'm not mad that I took the time to read it, but I also don't recommend it unless you are into literary self-flagellation.

The comment above that the book is pornographic- that resonates with me. The main character doesn't just suffer one life-altering trauma. He suffers *all* of them, in sequence, in a way that reads, 'you thought that was bad? Watch what happens next!'
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 7:58 AM on December 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


I did a lot of comparing A Little Life to An Untamed State and though there were some things I particularly liked about A Little Life (that Jude never just got better -- though of course he couldn't because horrible things kept happening to him), on the whole I found An Untamed State more affecting.
posted by jeather at 8:16 AM on December 4, 2015


There are often interesting debates in the letters of the Review, but I can't remember another time the editor of a fiction book showed up to complain about a negative review.

Daniel Mendelsohn is a treasure generally but I must admit I especially like when he doesn't like something other people like. Here he is on Mad Men.
posted by grobstein at 8:28 AM on December 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


There are often interesting debates in the letters of the Review, but I can't remember another time the editor of a fiction book showed up to complain about a negative review.

You're right. Usually it's the writer of a particular work or essay that writes in to defend themselves.
posted by Fizz at 8:30 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I subscribed to the NYRB for a long time, and these back-and-forths in the letters where an author writes about how badly the reviewer misread the book, and then the reviewer responds, were always excruciating to me. High-brow precursors to author shitstorms on goodreads. "Disengage with dignity!" I always thought.
posted by not that girl at 8:30 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


My great problem with A Little Life is that Jude is such a romantic character, and so much of that romance is bound up in his abuse. He is depressed and disabled, but he is depressed and disabled in such a stoic, tragic way, while also incredibly wealthy, remarkably disciplined, terribly mysterious, followed by people who are constantly curious about his past, so fiercely intelligent that he's able to obtain post-graduate degrees from two ivy league universities (at the same time!), and, of course, hauntingly beautiful. More so than any of Jude's tribulations, it is the character itself, and the fetishization of abuse and its survivors, that I find so gross.

That said, I do think A Little Life is worth reading and I did enjoy reading it. It's by no means a good book, but it's an excellent litmus test for one's tastes and is sure to provoke a response regardless of whether or not one enjoys it. That alone is something of a feat.
posted by lunch at 8:31 AM on December 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


I subscribed to the NYRB for a long time, and these back-and-forths in the letters where an author writes about how badly the reviewer misread the book, and then the reviewer responds, were always excruciating to me. High-brow precursors to author shitstorms on goodreads. "Disengage with dignity!" I always thought.

It's kinda weird, though. NYRB lets authors respond to negative reviews at great lengths -- often with two letters of 1,000 words or more.

So I thought Howard's letter was going to serve up something like that -- an argument, an essay in its own right, explaining what Mendelsohn got wrong. But he doesn't really do that at all. He basically just registers his disagreement with the review and signs off. Kinda boring.
posted by grobstein at 8:37 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I found the first 3/4 of Mendelsohn's review fascinating and fair (especially his point about the quality of Yanagihara's writing) and then I hit the tiresome "what would have happened if a white dude had written this" and "college students today are wimps wallowing in self-victimization" closing paragraphs. Are the concerns he spends the rest of the review meditating on the fruits of these dumb-as-hell trees? Mendelsohn's point about readers taking (perhaps unconscious) pleasure from outlandish, unrealistic pain reminded me of the success of Dave Peltzer's allegedly faked memoirs of abuse -- what does it tell us about ourselves as readers that we lap this stuff up (speaking for myself, not judging anyone else)?

I think it would have been wiser for Howard to refrain from responding. Let all the other critics who have slathered the book with praise do that water carrying. And it would have been wiser for Mendelsohn to refrain from lashing back, and to let his review speak for itself. Someone teach these guys how shade works.
posted by sallybrown at 8:39 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I didn't read the book in question, so obviously it is impossible for me to take a side on who is right here. I will say that Mendelsohn's criticism of the novel echoes the complaint I had with the "That's My Dog" episode of Six Feet Under, which essentially ruined the series for me. The whole thing felt like torture porn, with the writer(s) just heaping more and more abuse upon the main character, to almost comical levels, mistaking extremity for depth.
posted by The Gooch at 8:51 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mendelsohn's point about readers taking (perhaps unconscious) pleasure from outlandish, unrealistic pain reminded me of the success of Dave Peltzer's allegedly faked memoirs of abuse -- what does it tell us about ourselves as readers that we lap this stuff up (speaking for myself, not judging anyone else)?

As someone who has struggled with mental health the last two years, I've thought a lot about why this novel resonated so much with me. While I've never experienced any physical/sexual abuse, I found myself nodding along during some of Jude's moments of self-doubt with regard to his identity and how he is perceived in the larger world by his friends/family. It struck some deep chords with me for sure. I've had moments where I've considered suicide in a very real way and Jude is someone that just felt real to me. Like a phantom brother of the mind. There is a tender emotional awareness to his character that I could connect with. And maybe it's because fiction allows us to enter into these spaces in a safe way. It's tougher in real life to connect with some of these emotions.
posted by Fizz at 8:52 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


"More so than any of Jude's tribulations, it is the character itself, and the fetishization of abuse and its survivors, that I find so gross."

Yeah, this. This book really didn't land for me. I don't want to sound dismissive (because I understand it's divisive and views differ) but the phrase that popped into my mind was "manic pixie torture victim." It felt very trivializing to me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:53 AM on December 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


I like Mendelsohn's reply. It's cheeky:

It can be neither pleasant nor easy for Gerald Howard to have to defend his author’s now popular and acclaimed book against a complaint that he himself made as it was being written ...
“This is just too hard for anybody to take,” Howard told her…. “You have made this point quite adequately, and I don’t think you need to do it again.” Yanagihara says that Howard also thought Jude was too unbelievably talented….
I’m happy to allow that another word might be better than “duped”: “Cheated”? “Pandered to”? Mr. Howard can take his pick. One only wishes that he had imposed as stringent an editorial oversight on his author as he would do on her reviewers.
posted by grobstein at 8:55 AM on December 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


The difficult thing about both making and disproving Mendelsohn's argument is that pain and suffering isn't objective. You can try to make the fact-based claim that a person would never have X number of tragedies happen in his life (although sometimes people do end up with a shit sandwich of a life). But how can you really prove that a person would realistically only suffer Y amount of pain? How can you prove that a student who seeks counseling because her roommate called her a bitch didn't objectively "deserve" that reaction? How can you judge whether it's "fair" for an author to use extreme tragedy to provoke a reaction in her readers? Why are Yanagihara's authorial decisions "pandering" while Dickens's are legitimate?
posted by sallybrown at 9:05 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


As someone who has struggled with mental health the last two years, I've thought a lot about why this novel resonated so much with me. While I've never experienced any physical/sexual abuse, I found myself nodding along during some of Jude's moments of self-doubt with regard to his identity and how he is perceived in the larger world by his friends/family. It struck some deep chords with me for sure.

The book did the same for me, and I read through it very quickly in large part because reading it made me feel awful. There is something to be said for writing that can activate one's own turmoil, but while the book activated it, it never made me examine or consider those emotions. For all the discussion about the excess of Jude's abuses, it's amazing to me how much there was in them that I could identify with, but I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with that.

I also want to thank you for all of your excellent FPPs Fizz. There are so many articles and pieces of literary news that I've only read because you've taken the time to post them, and I really appreciate it.
posted by lunch at 9:07 AM on December 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I read maybe a hundred pages and couldn't go on. Not because it was emotionally unbearable--yet, though one got the feeling that that was certainly coming--but because I thought the storytelling was bad. Little details, like a character using chopsticks in one sentence and a fork in the next, constantly distracted me. Perhaps relevant to this discussion, I kept thinking, "this book needed a good editor."

It felt like inelegant storytelling up and down: on the small scale with the little lapses in verisimilitude, and on the large scale with the repeated clumsy hints at this bottomless well of suffering of the Jude character. So on that second point I essentially agree with Howard, but I was undone by the crappy writing before I even got too far down the bottomless well. I'm not seeing any of the linked reviews addressing that shortcoming, so maybe I'm alone in my opinion there.
posted by The Minotaur at 9:31 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Pandered to" is definitely better than "duped".
posted by kenko at 9:32 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't read the book but I actually do know someone who had an extremely abusive and terrible childhood and went on to have an improbable array of expertises (which I won't characterize as "compensatory"), so such things can happen (though, obviously, I don't know what the degrees of depths or heights the protagonist reaches are).

Some true things don't really work in fiction, though.
posted by kenko at 9:35 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I tore through the book but felt a bit guilty doing so--it is definitely not the next gay novel.

It reminds me of nothing so much as hurt/comfort fanfic. The pornographic aspect comes not from the pain inflicted on Jude but the pleasure the other characters take in comforting him afterwards.

Indeed, given the fact that Willem is a famous actor, when I was reading I almost wonder if the Willem/Jude pairing mapped directly on to some other fandom couple. Thor/Loki? Kirk/Spock? Seriously, all of the tropes are there, as is the obsessive focus on the extreme emotions that are being wrung out of the characters.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:00 AM on December 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Hanya Yanagihara's commentary in the Electric Literature interview is worth noting:
“This book adheres to many of the conventions of the classic Western fairy tale: there’s a child in distress, who’s made to face challenges on his own. The era is suggested rather than named. There are no conventional parental figures, in particular mother figures. (Like many fairy tales, I hope this book is defined as much by its absences as its presences.) And yet, unlike a fairy tale, this book concerns itself more with the characters’ emotional response to these challenges and events than the circumstances themselves; I tried to meld the psychological specificity of a naturalistic contemporary novel with the suspended-time quality of a fable. Part of fairy tales’ lasting power is attributable to the fact that they never address their characters’ inner lives (a relatively modern literary concept, that); the particulars of the plot are generally far more important than the characters themselves. With A Little Life, I tried to do the opposite.”
I didn't realize how much this book falls into the fairy tale story genre. Reflecting on some of the horrors that Jude experiences specifically with this perspective in mind drastically alters the story. It diminishes that feeling of pornographic suffering that the book is being criticized for.
posted by Fizz at 10:18 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Fizz, great post, by the way)
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:49 AM on December 4, 2015


I came to the realization a few years ago, that more and more authors feel as if they have to include graphic scenes of abuse, molestation, rape etc. in order to deal with heavy or important issues. These works tend to be considered for prizes (in the same way that portrayals of disabled characters in film tend to be rewarded by Oscars).
I hate this trend, and have greatly reduced my consumption of literary fiction as a result.
It is my hope that someday there is a realization that gratuitous abuse is not necessary to effectively tell important stories, and I can once again enjoy this genre.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:50 AM on December 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hate this trend, and have greatly reduced my consumption of literary fiction as a result.
It is my hope that someday there is a realization that gratuitous abuse is not necessary to effectively tell important stories, and I can once again enjoy this genre.


I understand what you're saying and it's at the heart of why this book has divided so many critics and people. On the flip-side though is the risk of glossing over abuse or not representing it at all. And fiction should represent all types of experiences and stories, even the ones that are uncomfortable or difficult. It's definitely a difficult thing to balance and not everyone is going to be pleased either way.
posted by Fizz at 10:57 AM on December 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is my hope that someday there is a realization that gratuitous abuse is not necessary to effectively tell important stories, and I can once again enjoy this genre.

About four years ago I simply decided that any time a book uses incest unnecessarily as a plot device (often to show how tormented someone is or why they are a serial killer, say), I'd stop reading it. It doesn't keep me from reading good literary fiction, but it does let me avoid a lot of ham-handed writing.

The mixed reviews of this book don't make it clear what category it would fall in for me, though my guess from the reviews and the comments here is that I wouldn't find it compelling.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:29 PM on December 4, 2015


I read 2666 on a beach vacation. This book sounds like too much for me. Also, the "fairly standard post-college New York City book" is so tired that adding torture porn is about the only thing you could do to jazz it up.
posted by amber_dale at 8:05 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yanagihara said this in the Electric Lit interview:
Maybe this is changing with younger men, but I sometimes listen to my male friends talk, and can understand that what they’re trying to communicate is fear, or shame, or vulnerability–even as I find it striking that they’re not even able to name those emotions, never mind discuss their specificities; they talk in contours, but not in depth.
Her avowed inability to understand her male friends' emotional expressions, which she seems perversely to be proud of, gives me no confidence that she can render the inner lives of men with fidelity or indeed generosity.
posted by waxbanks at 5:47 AM on December 5, 2015


For the other incurable snobs, I note that the "New Yorker" item linked above is not a piece from the print magazine, but from the website, which does not maintain the same standards of quality.
posted by grobstein at 9:43 AM on December 5, 2015


- Hanya Yanagihara’s “Sex and the City” [New Yorker]
I was mystified at first as to how I was able to tolerate, let alone devour, a book so devoted to two of my least-favorite literary topoi (pedophilia, lifestyles of the rich and glamorous). Then it occurred to me that perhaps what was so compelling was precisely the combination of the two. It’s as if you get to see all the misery—the moral compromise, inequality, jealousy, and self-doubt—that we know lies behind every gorgeously finished brownstone floor-through, every “prestigious” career, every “major award,” every super-expensive sushi dinner at a New York City restaurant with only six seats (“all at a wide, velvety cypress counter”), displaced on to this one guy. That’s why his suffering has to be so far over the top.
posted by Fizz at 4:37 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


« Older How do you lose a rocket booster?   |   August Engelhardt, history's most radical cocovore Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments