ENDERBY'S DARK LADY

OR NO END TO ENDERBY

Enderby the Poet—corpulent, flatulent, malicious—arrived, full of bile and Joycean brio, in Enderby (1968). He took a look at New York circa 1973 in The Clockwork Testament (1975), promptly dying of a heart attack. And now, "to placate kind readers. . . who objected to my casually killing my hero," Enderby is resurrected circa 1976—in a brief, heavyhanded, disappointing episode. This time the prim poet is in Terrebasse, Indiana (that's the level of the wordplay here), hired to write the libretto for a musical about Will Shakespeare. His collaborators, of course, are a cartoonishly crude lot—they want show-biz, not Enderby's intricately rhymed Elizabethan-style verses. The show's backer is ostentatious local matron Mrs. Schoenbaum (more than a whiff of anti-Semitism here), whose favorite spiritualist claims to be in touch with Shakespeare's understandably riled-up ghost. But the co-star, in the Dark Lady role, is gorgeously black pop-diva April Elgar—and Enderby, smitten with lust, is soon tailoring the show to her non-Elizabethan talents. April, who switches back and forth between crude New Yorkese and a "slave whine" (both imperfectly rendered), is actually nice and educated; she invites Enderby to her Carolina home for Christmas (where he must pose as a clergyman, preaching an incoherent sermon to a Baptist congregation); she is not unresponsive to Enderby's infatuation. Still, Enderby—for "aesthetic" reasons—declines to convert his lust into reality, confining himself to masturbation. ("He had to cart the engorged shlong three times into the bathroom. . . .") And, in the ill-staged slapstick finale, the poet is forced to take over the role of Shakespeare on the opening night of the show. . . now titled Actor on His Ass. Burgess bulks out this thin novella with two labored Shakespeare fantasies—one at the beginning (WS drafts the 46th Psalm for the King James Bible), the other at the end (WS and time-travelers). He includes many examples of Enderby's hard-working libretto. But the central comic situation never comes to satiric life (mystery-writer Simon Brett would have gotten more laughs from it); the love-story manquÉ is limp; and the two strengths of the previous novels—the Enderby character, the rococo narration—only flair sporadically in this twiddling spin-off.

Pub Date: April 1, 1984

ISBN: 0070089760

Page Count: 160

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1984

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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