Amusing riffs, sharp wit, and the search for a ’70s icon aren’t enough to keep the action moving. Sadly, Christine’s lull is...

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SECRET CELEBRITY

A Hollywood screenwriter follows her insider debut novel (The Cigarette Girl, 1999) with another girl-on-the-make story. This time the girl is 35 and what she’s trying to make is a documentary film.

Christine Chase is in a self-described lull. It’s the year leading up to the millennium and her career’s going nowhere, her six-year marriage to party animal, wandering-eye, gorgeous James is over, and her $50 visits to the Centerfold newsstand on Melrose and Fairfax for magazines and newspapers are the highlight of her week. She’s got a mild relationship with the clerk, William, irreverently dubbed “magazine guy,” but, ironically, it’s here with William that the quest for a new life takes shape. The keyword is Richard Gault, a ’70s rocker who made a small splash before disappearing into the void. And, well, this is a novel about celebrity. “I was obsessed with how obsessed people can get with celebrities,” Christine tells us, and her clever insights are on autopilot as she documents the fringe characters of Hollywood and their habits. There are the Hint-and-Deny girls who give you every clue about who they’re sleeping with, then insist you’re wrong when you guess right; the “def con four system,” involving namedropping in a complicated pattern; and the PDP thing—Public Display of Privacy. Christine collects a group of fellow seekers—William; a cameraman named Waz; Jennifer, an H-and-D girl whose body warrants third looks—and they set off to find Richard Gault, who slowly becomes so much larger than life that Christine refers to him as God. (Anybody remember John Galt in Atlas Shrugged?) Along the way, Christine finds time to feed her libido, muse endlessly on the LA scene, actually find Richard Gault—and the answer to her prayers.

Amusing riffs, sharp wit, and the search for a ’70s icon aren’t enough to keep the action moving. Sadly, Christine’s lull is far-reaching.

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-57322-214-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2002

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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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