THE GODS OF GOLF

Two golf-lovers team up for a comic first novel. Our hero and narrator, Tom Cruickshank, is playing perhaps his worst round of golf ever at Pine Valley, and since his boss has a deal riding on Tom's performance, he may lose his job. Then Tom is whisked away by an elderly golfer named Harry Brady, magically transported to the greens of Mount Augustus, the most difficult course in the universe because it's ruled by Scottish gods every bit as capricious as those in the Greek pantheon. If Tom plays a great round, Harry assures him, he'll enjoy a reward from the Great God MacKenzie himself—and, since time doesn't exist on Mount Augustus, Tom can return to his earthly match only moments after leaving. In fact, Tom is, without his knowledge, being auditioned as Harry's replacement as the gopher for the gods: In exchange for certain favors, Harry long ago agreed to keep the immortals supplied with Cuban cigars, fancy perfumes, and vintage liquor from the mortal world. Smith and Holms have a lot of fun with this, using holes one through eighteen to portray the various lesser gods of golf such as Mulligan, god of excuses; Divot, god of bad lies; Twitch, god of putting; and Lorena, a foul-smelling harpy who presides over the wicked slice. Best of all are Wendell and Ruppert, hucksters who talk like siding salesmen, the gods of winter rules; and the hated MacTavish, the legalistic, entirely unreasonable god of all rules. Days pass, Harry disappears, and Tom even falls in love before he's brought to trial in the clubhouse, accused of cheating. Threatened with spending eternity in the celestial foundry, Tom negotiates a clever deal and marches back to the next hole at Pine Valley with every confidence he'll win the round. Aimed at the country club set, and very funny.

Pub Date: July 11, 1996

ISBN: 0-671-54684-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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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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