Gloriously shifty puzzle-fiction whose resolution is much less important than the kaleidoscopic journey towards it.



Gonzo, wired psychodrama from Clevenger (The Contortionist’s Handbook, 2002), who splices and reshuffles reality in prose that reads like something ripped screaming straight out of the unconscious.

The story starts inside the head of the extremely disturbed and confused Eric Ashworth, who’s trying to piece together exactly why and how in the hell he ended up where he is. At the moment, wrists and feet cuffed to a chair, he’s being interrogated by a testy police detective and his defense attorney, neither of whom Ashworth’s convinced are quite human. He can tell they’re quickly running out of patience with him, perhaps understandably, since he’s constantly hallucinating and drifting in and out of fugue states. Out on bail, Ashworth checks into a fleabag hotel that could have dropped straight out of a William Vollman novel and begins to get bits of his memory back. He’s helped, sort of, by the appearance of one Manhattan White, who claims to be an old associate, and psychopathic henchman Toe Tag, described by Ashwort as, “Goddamned Boo Radley with a chloroform rag and a bone saw.” It seems that at some point in the near past, Ashworth was the evil-scientist nerve center for a network of drug labs strung all over the Southwest, constantly synthesizing new drug compounds for all the designer junkies with the attention spans of mayflies. But then the whole operation went up in flames, and Ashworth’s memory gets a bit cloudy after that. Cutting through the buckshot randomness of his recollections, he can at least pick out the girl he must have been in love with: Desiree, whose name “numbs me like an animal dart and drops my thoughts in their tracks.”

Gloriously shifty puzzle-fiction whose resolution is much less important than the kaleidoscopic journey towards it.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2005

ISBN: 1-931561-75-3

Page Count: 250

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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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