Don't expect any Night at the Museum hijinks here.



A 25-year veteran of the Metropolitan Museum of Art makes her fiction debut with a literary homage to the venerable New York City institution.

What really goes on behind the scenes and after hours at a major museum? In this series of loosely linked surreal vignettes, Coulson takes us on a tour of the hidden world that tourists never see: the conservation galleries, the staff cafeteria, the dusty storerooms, and dark tunnels—“the grim bowels below the basement where storage cages made with woven-metal fencing held retired art and cartons of old paperwork.” We also meet the Met's eccentric staff and its wealthy patrons. In “Musing,” snooty director Michel Larousse, upon learning that Karl Lagerfeld is bringing a muse to a meeting at the Met, scours his museum’s collections for his own personal muse. In “The Talent,” neurotic curator Nick Morton obsesses about losing prime gallery space to a rival (“My pictures cannot hang on nine-foot walls”). And in “Mezz Girls,” lonely, cranky Mrs. Leonard Havering dines at a benefit auction with the troublesome ghost of a previous Met benefactor. And then there’s the art: In “Chair as Hero,” an 18th-century fauteuil à la reine in the Wrightsman Galleries recalls comforting the distraught young daughter of the Duchess of Parma, and in “Adam,” a Renaissance statue craves movement, with disastrous results. Magical realism requires finesse, and while some of Coulson’s fables offer a bit of fun whimsy (a time-traveling passageway in “Meats & Cheeses” leads to the Met’s 1920 Egyptian expedition), clunky prose too often spoils the mood. (“Rather paltry, he smirked”; “ ‘No sweetie,’ chomped a showgirl version of Calliope from the European Paintings collection”). Coulson obviously loves her former employer, but her vignettes never add up to more than the sum of their parts. Still, this will sell in the Met's store as an alternative guidebook to its rich treasures.

Don't expect any Night at the Museum hijinks here.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-058-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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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 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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