Distinctive and disturbing imagery; familiar diagnoses.

GOLD RUSH

A violent teenaged boy darts to adulthood in Yokohama, a mural of hell in bestselling Yu’s forceful if uneven English-language debut.

Blood rushing to his head, 14-year-old Kazuki Yuminaga seizes a golf club and splits open the head of a Doberman. Did cocaine trigger the outburst? Or was it Kazuki’s perpetually boiling rage and his drive to seize power, the elixir he feels will make him a man? Confronting his uncouth father, Kazuki next drives a sword into the man’s back and kills him. With the body stashed under a floor in his home, Kazuki embarks on his life as an adult. The nascent monster tries to overtake Vegas, his father’s gaming house, by threatening its workers. And he colludes with his father’s mistress, who seduces and then blackmails him. Amid these moments of squalor and menace come startling contrasts. Kazuki initially finds tenderness with Kyoko, a young woman who cares for his retarded brother Koki. Yu skillfully maintains a feverish tone until the end—when, reaching for insight into Kazuki’s mind, she slips at times from stunning surrealism into flat sociology that turns up awkwardly, nudging the narrative toward judgment. Studying Kazuki, a family friend observes, “That’s why society sets boundaries, eighteen or twenty years old, and says that’s when a person reaches adulthood; and that’s why certain things are forbidden to children who haven’t reached that age. . . .” But for Kazuki, the horror of a world in which dark dreams bleed into reality can’t be parsed so simply. With Kyoko and Koki holding his hands, he poses for a snapshot where another person once photographed him with his father and mother. This time, Kazuki feels that “everything inside his head was exposed.”

Distinctive and disturbing imagery; familiar diagnoses.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56649-155-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

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MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

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A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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