Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: "A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara

When long books are bad, their poor quality becomes much more apparent later on when you are already a few hundred pages in, while bad books that are of average length kind of announce themselves early on. I didn’t realize how bad A Little Life (the second novel of author Hanya Yanigihara) was until I was too far into it to not finish the damn book. At first, after finishing this book, I didn’t want to give it my lowest rating, but then I think of the time it took me to finish this book and how long I spent reading it (at 720 pages, it took me a week), the book’s value only continued to drop. Rarely does this book ever resemble anything other than an overrated hype fest meant to cash in on books like The Goldfinch or more recently Matthew Thomas’ grand We Are Not Ourselves. This book doesn’t deserve to sharpen the pencils of the authors who wrote those books. It deals with a group of temperamental, successful men who are living in New York. There is Willem, the shy yet gorgeous aspiring actor, Jude, the genius litigator with an army of demons trailing behind him wherever he goes, JB, a semi-successful artist with a massive ego, and Malcolm, an architect in a constant state of disappointment. We follow these thinly drawn ego machines through the years, where it becomes apparent that Jude’s past is a bigger monster than anyone can contain, and they have all been using him as a catalyst for their own pain (that’s my interpretation)  and it will color the rest of their lives. This book gets it all wrong, with the juxtaposition of the privileged and depraved being a tired cliché done better a million other times, and whenever Jude’s problems are in the forefront, which is a lot and include such things as a lifelong addiction to cutting and a stint as a male prostitute to support his priest lover, they come off as very trite and manipulative, and dare I say, laughable. And when this book does try to go for the heart, like with a surprise death near the end, it doesn’t really earn it. It is a little early in the year, but I can’t think of a worse book I will read in the next 8 months.  
Rating: 1/5

1 comment:

  1. Just started the damn thing and already agree. I don't like the characters. I don't like "artists" who sculpt out of frozen grape juice or lard and watch their "art" melt or turn to goo. I don't like young people who are unaware of being thrilled by being alive, even if they've endured unbearable childhoods. There's something exhibitionistic, almost pornographic in the way suffering is portrayed here--not honestly. Real suffering would be heartbreaking to read about--here, I shake my head and wince at the feeling that somebody's almost getting off on the extremity of Jude's horrible childhood.