An overcooked, incoherent stew of references.



A debut work crammed with metatextual trickery, references to everything from Nabokov to Pynchon to Scandinavian mythology, and thickly ironic humor—a literary-gamesmanship machine kicked into overdrive.

Long’s first novel initially comes on like a murder mystery. Shirley MacGuffin had been editing a version of Hamlet, by Thomas Kyd, until she died—the day before Bean Day, a celebration honoring an adventurer who discovered the mythical Icelandic land of Vanaheim. Bean’s daughter, Our Heroine—really, her name is Our Heroine—charges herself with solving Shirley’s murder in the tourist-crammed town of New Cruiskeen, Penn., though she has to find her missing dog as well. Got all that? No matter. The book isn’t so much a mystery as it is a goof on the genre, and Shirley isn’t really a crucial character. (Hitchcock fans might have guessed that from Shirley’s surname.) It is structured as a “discovered” novel, with an editor inserting persnickety and increasingly unhinged footnotes (just like Pale Fire), has a middle section with interior monologues by individual characters (just like As I Lay Dying) and includes a handsome male sidekick for Our Heroine, who eventually explains it all in the final pages (just like in a potboiler thriller). And just like most postmodern novels, it’s exasperating and too clever by half—Long is so busy struggling to wade through a chin-high swamp of literary cataloguing that he has little energy left for anything resembling characterization, forcing the reader to keep track of a host of New Cruiskeen residents even while he asks you to reject conventional notions about plot. The book’s most interesting and comic characters, in fact, are two of its most minor—Wible & Pacheco, a Rosenkrantz-and-Guildenstern-like dynamic duo of pretentiousness who roam the town as self-styled “philosophical investigators.” The way the two get mocked for their pomposity suggests that Long knows how far off the deep end he’s gone. But while the willful goofiness makes it somewhat more penetrable, it doesn’t salvage it.

An overcooked, incoherent stew of references.

Pub Date: May 10, 2006

ISBN: 1-932416-51-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?