Lively and quick-witted, but pretty claustrophobic after a while. Though a nice portrait of the downtown scene, it will wear...

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UNLUBRICATED

In the latest New York hipster saga from Nersesian (Chinese Takeout, 2003, etc.), a young Yalie tries to make a name for herself on Broadway and resorts to all the usual ploys.

The casting couch is a long and dishonorable tradition in the theater, but poor Hannah Cohn goes the extra mile: She becomes a lesbian, not for a part, but an apartment. And even that goes bust when her girlfriend Christy (Hannah’s old drama teacher at Yale) catches her making out with film producer Franklin Stein and tosses her out on her ear. Franklin makes vague promises to Hannah about a small role in his upcoming film, but the best he does in the short run is help her find a new place. Down but not out, Hannah slogs away at temp jobs and drags herself to auditions week after week. But when an old Yale classmate tells her he’s secured the production rights for a long-lost play by feminist cult icon Lily Bull (read: Valerie Solanas), Hannah takes the bull by the horns and scrapes up the cash to mount the production. Obscure and despised in her own lifetime, Bull (who once tried to kill downtown pop artist Gary Ganghole) is best known now for her man-hating diatribe C.O.C.K., but she also wrote a weird play called Unlubricated about a group of blocked writers who meet to talk out their frustrations but explode with rage when one of their group completes a successful epic. Not exactly Broadway material, but Hannah figures it will be enough of a splash to get her the publicity she needs to move on to bigger things. What she hasn’t figured on, though, are landlord disputes, copyright lawsuits, megalomaniacal directors, traitors, and plagiarists. That is, the usual New York nuisances.

Lively and quick-witted, but pretty claustrophobic after a while. Though a nice portrait of the downtown scene, it will wear thin on outsiders.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-073411-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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