A Little Life

I filed away Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life after seeing the headline on Facebook, A Little Life: The Great Gay Novel Might Be Here. It started as one of those New York stories, about a group of friends moving to the city after college. It ended with me hyperventilating and in tears. (You have been warned.)

In between was a book that was difficult to read. After I finished, I read Yanagihara's essay and found this description could have been helpful beforehand: "One of the things I wanted to do with this book was create a protagonist who never gets better."

But it was also beautiful. Let's go to the videotape.

Describing the subway crossing the bridge into Queens:

"The other aspect of those weekday-evening trips he loved was the light itself, how it filled the train like something living as the cars rattled across the bridge, how it washed the weariness from his seat-mates’ faces and revealed them as they were when they first came to the country, when they were young and America seemed conquerable. He’d watch that kind light suffuse the car like syrup, watch it smudge furrows from foreheads, slick gray hairs into gold, gentle the aggressive shine from cheap fabrics into something lustrous and fine. And then the sun would drift, the car rattling uncaringly away from it, and the world would return to its normal sad shapes and colors, the people to their normal sad state, a shift as cruel and abrupt as if it had been made by a sorcerer’s wand."


"There had been periods in his twenties when he would look at his friends and feel such a pure, deep contentment that he would wish the world around them would simply cease, that none of them would have to move from that moment, when everything was in equilibrium and his affection for them was perfect. But, of course, that was never to be: a beat later, and everything shifted, and the moment quietly vanished."

"...when their professional identities were still foggy to them and they were united by their aspirations instead of divided by their daily realities."

New York:

"New York was populated by the ambitious. It was often the only thing that everyone here had in common."


"There were times when the pressure to achieve happiness felt almost oppressive, as if happiness were something that everyone should and could attain, and that any sort of compromise in its pursuit was somehow your fault."


"...small bright hurt of Andy easing the tape off his leg..."

"...loved the cherry trees, with their froth of pink blossoms..."

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