While Bobby Kahn isn’t precisely Tom Jones, there’s a correlation Fielding would have recognized and enjoyed. As will others.

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NEW BEDLAM

After a deliciously sly novel about the dark side of the music business (A&R, 2000) comes a deliciously sly novel about the underbelly of the TV industry—from someone who’s worked both vineyards.

There’s no real meanness in Bobby Kahn, no big-time cruelty—we’re talking Bobby, not Genghis—but, face it, he is something of a scapegrace, whose moral compass keeps pointing in uncertain directions. Actually, the most noteworthy thing about Bobby, the thing that ultimately defines him, is his enduring love affair with television. In particular, he’s drawn to its programming and production aspects, and his philosophy goes something like this: Get the programming part right and the ratings must follow, as well as the advertising dollars. Get the programming wrong and there’s a consequent short fall in meat and potatoes. Not too long ago, Bobby was one of his network’s boy wonders, and then the TV hotshot got caught fudging reality on his reality show. The ensuing scandal sent the network’s senior suits running for cover. “The posse’s getting close. We need to throw them a body,” was the panicky outcry. The body, of course, turned out to be Bobby’s, and after ten prime-time years, he was cancelled. Enter those seemingly simple folk from New Bedlam, R.I., with their pint-sized cable operation. Small, yes, but Skyler King had plans for King Cable, and they included Bobby. Just how is the essence of this lively, occasionally acid, picaresque novel, in which all the biters get bit, and entertainment and metaphor have a way of bumping along together.

While Bobby Kahn isn’t precisely Tom Jones, there’s a correlation Fielding would have recognized and enjoyed. As will others.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-59420-050-2

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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