A subtle literary success.

THE MEDIUM OF DESIRE

A love story set in Virginia and nestled at the intersection of art and everyday life. 

Brett Bale is a popular, successful painter based in Richmond. His work is known both for its esoteric characterizations of human emotion (which one studio owner calls “wild, archetypal and primitive”) and elementary appeal (“So few lines. So little paint”). He works on commission, selling to B-list clients through his broker, Salina. Meanwhile, Olivia Martin lives in New York City and works for the notorious hedge fund McCann & Co. Her job is all-consuming, and she’s spent the past four years rotting away in a cubicle, hunched over Excel spreadsheets and dealing with her misogynist boss, Matthew Weiss. When she presents a new algorithm to the company’s executives, Matthew expectedly takes the credit. Finally pushed to her limit, Olivia quits—forgetting that she was forced to sign a noncompete agreement that prohibits her from working for another hedge fund for six months. At a loss, she moves back to Richmond to live with her parents while she figures things out. As a way to expand on his artist brand—and following Salina’s advice—Brett decides to take on an apprentice, who turns out to be Olivia. Studying with the acclaimed Brett reawakens her love for art that she thought she’d lost. In the process, Brett and Olivia fall in love, though not without a long period of hovering, innocent flirtation and momentous internal dialogue. McGlothlin’s (The Piratization of Daniel Barnes, 2018) second novel is a careful study of the effect of a hermetic artistic practice as well as the impact of burning out at an overwhelmingly demanding job. Although some of the dialogue comes off as highfalutin, with its grandiose ruminations on art (“form is everything….The building we stand in is form, originally outlined in an architect’s blueprints….All for a specific purpose, to attain a desired effect”). However, the author creates highly believable characters amid the sobering realism. He compellingly depicts Brett and Olivia’s relationship, constantly questioning the role of art in everyday life, the function of the artist within society, and the place that love occupies in this process.

A subtle literary success.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9890488-9-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Mountainlion Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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