PERIPHERAL VISION

IRREGULAR ESSAYS FROM PUBLIC RADIO

Bouchier’s (A Few Well Chosen Words, 2008, etc.) fourth collection of his public radio commentaries reads like a top-of-mind brainstorm.

Covering topics from prejudice to politics, Bouchier pontificates in manageable, bite-sized meanderings on everything from the mundane—such as remembering computer passwords—to end-of-the-world prophesies. For Bouchier, no topic is too big or too small to take a position. In “Global Absolutely Everything,” he addresses the sad reality that just about everything we buy in America is made somewhere else. “They Know Where You Are” is his defense of the need for road maps even in the age of GPS. He takes on a few serious subjects—“The Voice of Authority” highlights the negative messages being broadcast to viewers through reality television, and “No Place to Hide” laments the loss of personal privacy—and also chimes in with a personal pet peeve or two, as in “A Glass of Penguin and Thou,” in which he discusses his irritation with modern winemakers who are taking the culture and mystique out of being a wine enthusiast with their silly labels and often crass names. (He drives his point home by using an example from James Bond’s Goldfinger in which an assassin posing as a wine waiter gives himself away by claiming that claret is not a Bordeaux, noting: “Bond killed him of course, which was only right.”) Bouchier peppers many of the short vignettes with deadpan wit but also freely displays his humorous side in essays like “Never Again” in which he regales the reader with his thoughts on the annual avalanche of seasonal catalogs—especially those that promise to permanently solve just about every issue from shower mold to cushions sliding off the chair, noting that he has neither a problem with shower mold, nor sliding chair cushions, as his are held firmly in place by his cats. Filled with humorous, wry, often spot-on observations of real life in today’s world, Bouchier’s insightful musings are not to be missed.

 

Pub Date: July 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615458922

Page Count: 462

Publisher: Mid Atlantic Productions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2012

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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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