A sprawling comedy of horrors, the possibility of its spilling over into a third manifestation certainly welcome.

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BRIDE OF THE FAT WHITE VAMPIRE

This tangy second go-round for Fox’s quarter-ton vampire gives readers a run for their money at telling the bloodsuckers from the leeches.

Having blown himself into 187 white rats at the end of Fat White Vampire Blues (2003), New Orleans vampire Jules Duchon is gathered by his friend Doodlebug Richelieu and reassembled (mostly; he’s missing a critical element of the male anatomy) into the mountainous undead he once was. The High Krewe of Vlad Tepes, an arrogant and wealthy company of Eastern European vampires living outside New Orleans, wants Duchon to find whoever is mutilating members of their association. Duchon comes into contact with a wide array of savory and unsavory characters—and finely described slices of New Orleans—allowing Fox to throw jabs and sling darts. Says Doodlebug of his new home: “California is different from the rest of the country. A combination of widespread Wiccanism and Hollywood liberalism means that blood-drinking is not as stigmatized as it would be here.” Sass and smarts are also in his bag of tricks, whether he’s poking fun at Internet searches or driving home a little social commentary on racism and greed. The plot is intricate enough to be more mystery than horror tale, with a complicated land scam that turns out to be something of a red herring, while grave tampering, lost loves, new loves, rotten apples, and morality plays are all kept aloft in sensible procession. Then the story accelerates into a mad whirligig, with Duchon’s dead mentor reappearing, his 40-year-dead mother reappearing (with his penis in tow), and a bride of Frankenstein (his mother wants her to be the bride of Duchon) appearing. Centrifugal forces could easily take the story down to crash and burn, but Fox commands the pyrotechnics and pilots to a sweet landing.

A sprawling comedy of horrors, the possibility of its spilling over into a third manifestation certainly welcome.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2004

ISBN: 0-345-46408-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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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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