I’M SORRY

Geist - - Endnotes - —Thad Mcil­roy

In Hanya Yanag­i­hara’s A Lit­tle Life (Dou­ble­day) the main char­ac­ter Jude says “I’m sorry” over 100 times. And he adds in “I’m so sorry” 30 times. You can’t help think­ing that other peo­ple should rather be apol­o­giz­ing to Jude, in­clud­ing the mother who aban­doned him on a door stoop; the mul­ti­ple priests who abused him phys­i­cally and sex­u­ally in the monastery where he lands; the pri­est who be­comes his pimp; the doc­tor who runs him over on pur­pose; and his first boyfriend, who throws them down the stairs, in his wheel­chair. All of this leads Jude to reg­u­larly cut him­self on the arms and legs with ra­zor blades he keeps stashed un­der the bath­room sink. This is de­scribed with great gusto by Yanag­i­hara, as in this pas­sage: “He had be­gun a new method of balanc­ing the edge of the blade on his skin and then press­ing down, as deep as he could, so that when he with­drew the ra­zor—stuck like an ax head into a tree stump—there was half a sec­ond in which he could pull apart the two sides of flesh and see only a clean white gouge, like a side of fat­ted ba­con, be­fore the blood be­gan rush­ing in to pool within the cut.” De­spite all of the hor­ror, Jude some­how be­comes one of the most pow­er­ful, well-paid lawyers in Man­hat­tan, lands a gor­geous boyfriend who is one of Hol­ly­wood’s lead­ing stars, and in a ges­ture of love is adopted as an adult by his saintly law pro­fes­sor. Still, Jude can’t stop apol­o­giz­ing. A Lit­tle Life is a painful, pain-filled book. By the end of it you’ll feel that you have suf­fered a life­time of abuse as well, or at least for the twenty or so hours it takes you to strug­gle through its 720 pages. The book be­came a best­seller in late 2015, re­ceiv­ing rap­tur­ous re­views from the New Yorker and many oth­ers. It was also de­scribed as “te­dious” by the New York Re­view of Books, the writ­ing “atro­cious.” The Mil­lions calls it “bungling,”, “over­wrought” and “ster­ile.” I just can’t rec­om­mend this book. I’m sorry.

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