Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby flipp525 » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:20 am

FilmFan720 wrote:All said, thank you flipp for pushing this so hard. I don't think I would have read it had I not seen so much chatter on the board about it, and I am glad I read it. It is perhaps 75 pages too long (I found a lot of the ending, as beautiful and moving as it was, very redundant), but it is engrossing and this is a major literary talent we have on our hands!

I was looking forward to hearing your thoughts, Tripp.

Do you think that, in a way, the ending feels more true to life though because of the constant back-and-forth, will-Jude-survive-this kind of extreme magnifying close-up? I agree with you that it was redundant at times (how many scenes can we see of Jude meeting yet another one of his saviors to discuss his depression over dinner?) But I felt like the long game there was to show how arduous and drawn-out a suicidal person's mind can be. Also, that final section does represent over three years.

We've touched on this a couple times in this thread, but is the novel filmable? An HBO miniseries event seems like the most conducive environment for the material (you have to think that only HBO would be willing to "go there" for some of the more extreme scenes of abuse and self-mutilation). But, what do you do about the ages of the actors? A young, 20s/30s set and then age makeup or totally different actors for the older versions? As mentioned previously, Yanagihara has already rejected one film option offer for her novel.
Last edited by flipp525 on Wed Oct 21, 2015 7:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 9:06 am

Finished this over the weekend. I didn't race through it as much as many of you did, but that could be as much life getting in the way (and having to read some other stuff concurrently) as it is my enthusiasm, but not over-the-moonness, for the book.

I really liked this book. Jude is certainly an immediately classic character, one who leaps off the page at every turn. In his personal side of the story, Yanagihara also manages to make each and every character round and memorable...favorites include Harold, for sure, and Andy, and even in his own twisted way Caleb, who you have a hard time ever forgetting.

The star of this book, though, is Yanagihara's prose. The way she describes the world of these characters is beautiful, and I found in many places her prose was propelling me through the book more than her plot. She has also set up a lot of very difficult passages and handles them superbly: the Caleb beating, the JB incident, the car accident, all the tales of abuse and manipulation, even the sex scenes that are so painful for Jude. Yanagihara doesn't make a false mood in any of those moments, and they are dealt with care, compassion and a marvelous use of words.

Reading through this thread, I see that the two biggest issues I had with the book have already been touched on here:

I had a hard time getting through the first 100 or so pages, mostly because there seemed to be so much exposition being thrown at me and I didn't find myself connecting with any of the characters (that may just be me, though). By the time the book settles in on Jude, I began to warm up to it a lot (by the time Caleb shows up, I was hooked). For so much of that exposition to not pay off (we spend so much time with Malcolm, and then he becomes such a non-entity) that I think there was a better way to structure that. The book is non-linear enough that this is info that could have been laid in later on in the story...it felt like after a while the book shifted gears, and I am not as forgiving of it as many of you seem to be.

I love the way that the book doles out information, although some of it was a little too forecasted for me and I think loses a bit of the punch because the pieces of the puzzle had already fallen into place for me. The entire Dr. Traylor section seemed a little anti-climactic, though, and I'm glad I'm not the first. I think this is not just what happens to Jude in the basement, but the way it is told. The Brother Luke section of the book is so vivid, and we see the torment in Jude so strongly during it, that the Dr. Traylor stuff felt much more rote and pulpy than anything else in the book. I don't think what Traylor does needs to be worse, but we need to get deeper into Jude's psyche in those moments. I did love, however, that we don't find out how Traylor was caught...in my mind, I don't think Jude knows how he was caught, nor do I think he cares.

All said, thank you flipp for pushing this so hard. I don't think I would have read it had I not seen so much chatter on the board about it, and I am glad I read it. It is perhaps 75 pages too long (I found a lot of the ending, as beautiful and moving as it was, very redundant), but it is engrossing and this is a major literary talent we have on our hands!
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby flipp525 » Thu Oct 15, 2015 10:05 am

Great post, danfrank. I enjoyed your viewpoint, especially your viewpoint as a clinical psychologist.

Here's a self-portrait of the late Peter Hujar, the artist whose photograph entitled "Orgasmic Man" was used as the cover photo for the novel. Hujar died of AIDS-related complications in 1987.

I much prefer his understated work to that of Robert Mapplethorpe, his much more flamboyant and more famous contemporary. The success of A Little Life should bring him some much belated mainstream recognition.

http://peterhujararchive.com/wp-content ... 33x944.jpg
http://peterhujararchive.com/wp-content ... 33x624.jpg (another self-portrait)
http://peterhujararchive.com/wp-content ... 33x957.jpg ("Orgasmic Man" 1987)
http://peterhujararchive.com/wp-content ... 33x955.jpg ("Orgasmic Man [II]" 1969)
http://peterhujararchive.com/wp-content ... 33x953.jpg ("Orgasmic Man [III]" 1969)
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby danfrank » Wed Oct 14, 2015 7:46 pm

I finished this a couple of weeks ago. I don't have much time to write about it now, but will agree that it is an incredibly powerful book. I was speaking to a friend yesterday, a voracious and not easily impressed reader, and was struck by how moved she was by this book. She kept asking me questions like, "did you find yourself thinking about it a lot even when you weren't reading it?"

As a clinical psychologist who has worked a good amount with complex trauma, I found Jude's actions and thought processes completely plausible and consistent with some of what I have observed. I didn't read this book primarily through a clinical lens, though, but just a human one. I don't know when I have cried reading a novel as much as with this one. A lot of the tears were ones where I was more moved in a positive way than sad. The characters--the main ones, anyway--were so clearly and beautifully drawn that I felt I had known them for years. I loved that this book was largely about men loving each other, and not in a romantic or sexual way. I guess you can say that it showed both the best and worst of humanity. There was incredible beauty in it.

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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby flipp525 » Wed Oct 14, 2015 2:27 pm

A Little Life has been revealed as a finalist for the National Book Award.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/ ... ook-awards
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby flipp525 » Wed Oct 14, 2015 8:57 am

Okri wrote:
Okri wrote:Not really that optimistic, flipp, but I will be thoroughly delighted to be proven wrong.

I haven't seen Olive Kittredge (I believe you're thinking of dws) but I hope to soon.

It's placement on the Booker shortlist is awesome. I love the Booker Prize (I own almost 250 shortlisted novels) and while I think Marlon James will trip the Yanagihiri at the last hurdle, it's a significant achievement.


Just tooting my own horn.

Good call, Okri. I was just hoping you were going to be wrong!
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby Okri » Tue Oct 13, 2015 6:27 pm

Okri wrote:Not really that optimistic, flipp, but I will be thoroughly delighted to be proven wrong.

I haven't seen Olive Kittredge (I believe you're thinking of dws) but I hope to soon.

It's placement on the Booker shortlist is awesome. I love the Booker Prize (I own almost 250 shortlisted novels) and while I think Marlon James will trip the Yanagihiri at the last hurdle, it's a significant achievement.


Just tooting my own horn.

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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby flipp525 » Tue Oct 13, 2015 4:09 pm

So Yanagihara's A Little Life just lost the Man Booker to Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings, a fictional account of an attempt to take Bob Marley’s life. He is the first Jamaican writer to win this prestigious prize. I was obviously pulling for Yanagihara, but this was an amazing achievement nevertheless.
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby flipp525 » Sun Oct 04, 2015 5:40 pm

Mister Tee wrote:It's quite a big deal for Maslin to give this front-page-of-the-arts-section prominence so long after publication. The last time I can remember her doing that was for I Am Pilgrim last year, and that was after the book had become a major paperback success. Pilgrim is of course a much different, far more pulpy book (though hugely enjoyable). For A Little Life to be accorded similar treatment suggests it's really entered the bloodstream.

I think The Times became aware that they missed the boat in not covering a book (except in the Sunday Book Review) that has basically become something of a phenomenon. Hence, the late Maslin review.
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby flipp525 » Fri Oct 02, 2015 11:22 am

Okri, your Monty Clift suggestion is my #1, but I think Alan Delion would also have made a great Jude. Montgomery Clift would've been great, and would have the acting skill to pull it off. Alain Delon is possibly even closer to how I imagine Jude looking, but I'm not so sure about his capacity to act that part.

https://www.google.com/search?q=alain+d ... U8NRHMw%3D
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:43 pm

I thought she was definitely referring to the car accident. I remember a critic years ago referring to a car accident in a film (which I won't name, for fear of spoiling) as "one of the few truly unexpected car accidents in film history" -- his point being that most car accidents occur, in literature and film, when the character is in such a downward spiral that such a development is the logical way for the author to resolve the plot. For that reason, I dispute Maslin's use of the word "melodrama" -- in melodrama, you'd be thinking, yeah, that figures; here, it came from the blue, and became something else, unanticipated, that our charcters (esp. Jude) need to deal with.

It's quite a big deal for Maslin to give this front-page-of-the-arts-section prominence so long after publication. The last time I can remember her doing that was for I Am Pilgrim last year, and that was after the book had become a major paperback success. Pilgrim is of course a much different, far more pulpy book (though hugely enjoyable). For A Little Life to be accorded similar treatment suggests it's really entered the bloodstream.

Maslin highlights some of the things we have (like the fantasy levels of success the characters achieve), though I question her use of the word "squeamish" vis a vis the sexual scenes. As I said, I think that was more a matter of restraint, and in deference to Jude's mind-set. But, overall, she's fair to the book, if a bit less enthusiastic than we (almost as if she can't really rave about it without making readers wonder why she missed it when it was first published).

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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby flipp525 » Thu Oct 01, 2015 10:45 am

Okri wrote:Okay, I'm being convinced. The NY Times re-reviewed it and Maslin's opening paragraph was

It's such an honest review. And so spot-on at several points ("The full parade of [a series of sadists] adds up to almost more misery than one novel can contain."). Even when she's finding fault with the novel, she cannot deny how utterly powerful it is.

What is she describing here, do you think? "One major development here is gasp-inducingly unexpected, the stuff of life but also of melodrama. It may not lift the bleak mood, but it explains a lot about this voyeuristic book’s popular success."

Seems a little dramatic for the car accident that takes Willem's life, however, I know that that's a pretty shocking, unexpected development.
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby Okri » Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:34 pm

Okay, I'm being convinced. The NY Times re-reviewed it and Maslin's opening paragraph was

"Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life,” published in March, turned out to be one of the most talked-about novels of the summer. It’s a big, emotional, trauma-packed read with a voluptuous prose style that wavers between the exquisite and the overdone. A potboiler about very intense male friendship, it’s a sui generis phenomenon that became a runaway hit. And it is now a shortlisted contender for the Man Booker Prize, which will be awarded on Oct. 13."

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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby flipp525 » Mon Sep 21, 2015 10:24 am

Okri wrote:Not really that optimistic, flipp, but I will be thoroughly delighted to be proven wrong.

I haven't seen Olive Kittredge (I believe you're thinking of dws) but I hope to soon.

It's placement on the Booker shortlist is awesome. I love the Booker Prize (I own almost 250 shortlisted novels) and while I think Marlon James will trip the Yanagihiri at the last hurdle, it's a significant achievement.

You're totally, right; that was dws. I'm sure he's happy with the showing Olive Kitteridge made last night at the Emmys.

I may just be over-estimating Yanagihara's chances but, as Mister Tee predicted, the book really has caught on like a wave and everyone is reading it right now.

Also, going back a bit further, your Montgomery Clift suggestion for Jude St. Francis is really on-point. It was difficult to fully picture Jude throughout the novel besides this idea of a handsome man succumbing to major physical incapacity. That mixture of his handicap/scarring with the physical beauty is an interesting combo. Towards the end of the book, I latched onto a comment made by Brother Luke that Jude is possibly part Native American, based on his running and early athleticism.

Oddly, I was picturing Wentworth Miller for Jude at one point. He might make a better Malcom though.
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Re: Official A LITTLE LIFE Thread

Postby Okri » Sun Sep 20, 2015 2:56 pm

Not really that optimistic, flipp, but I will be thoroughly delighted to be proven wrong.

I haven't seen Olive Kittredge (I believe you're thinking of dws) but I hope to soon.

It's placement on the Booker shortlist is awesome. I love the Booker Prize (I own almost 250 shortlisted novels) and while I think Marlon James will trip the Yanagihiri at the last hurdle, it's a significant achievement.


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