Butterflies are pretty, light, and charming; this book, not so much.

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BUTTERFLIES

THE STRANGE METAMORPHOSIS OF FACT & FICTION IN TODAY'S WORLD

Harrison mixes vignettes of the sex lives of rich people, mainly young and Eurasian, with journalistic pieces on economics, physics, and politics.

In the fictional portions of this book, members of a Shanghai sorority—an exclusive club for rich, politically well-connected young women—jockey for position as they enjoy luxurious lifestyles and explore their sexuality. Meanwhile, the young men in their circle work business deals, take drugs, pursue status, and chase women. In other chapters, a Creator called Taupin, living on a planet with three suns, tries to make sense of the Logos Simulation. There are also ghosts. In the nonfiction sections, journalist/entrepreneur Harrison, writing his debut work, sets forth his research and theories on such topics as hyperdimensionality, consciousness, authenticity, socioeconomics, bitcoin, and democracy. The author recommends his peripatetic, flitting style—or butterfly approach—to the reader as the best method for understanding coming change. Harrison draws some interesting connections, as when he compares the 1989 Tiananmen Square protestors to American hip-hop artists. He can be opaque (readers with “no inclination for a massively technical discussion” are invited to skip Chapter 3), but he explains the intricacies of, for example, digital-payment systems well: “Because bitcoin is all part of one great code, it is impossible for a single bitcoin to be counterfeit.” Alongside so much lesbian teenage sex, this could be a heady mix. But often, the book resembles nothing so much as dull 18th-century pornography in which sordid sex scenes alternate with treatises on political liberty: “ ‘Now personally,’ surmised Gina, waving her left finger, still wet with my white cum smear, ‘I don’t think that God is light or dark or maybe even anything.’ ” Also, while the work is breathlessly excited by all things cutting edge, its presentation of female sexuality is not well-informed fiction:  “I came on my clit,” says a confused young lady.

Butterflies are pretty, light, and charming; this book, not so much.

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1512128680

Page Count: 382

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2015

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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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