BETWEEN MEN

This tale of a would-be screenwriter has a funny line or two on almost every page, but debut novelist Lewis (who has both acted in films and written about them for the Los Angeles Times) hasn't quite honed her narrative skills to the level of her humor. Alice Wilder is a sharp-tongued New York heroine of the type found in the works of Nora Ephron, Susan Isaacs, et al. Transplanted to L.A., she cracks jokes to protect herself from getting hurt while toiling at a local newspaper. Her Russian ÇmigrÇ mother is the kind of woman who taught Wilder how to correctly blend in Elizabeth Arden night cream with her fingertips (``tiny dancing motions, chÇrie'') and that she should never reveal herself to men. After a brief, unhappy marriage to the son of a movie star ``famous for his suave gentleman roles,'' Wilder starts an affair with married film director Oscar Lombardi. Lombardi has four weeks before he needs to leave for Chicago to shoot some scenes, and they agree that during that time they will sate themselves to grind down their attraction to each other. Easier said than done. Wilder is also seeing Mike Pearce, a younger man studying for the bar exam and taking a stand-up comedy course. He is adoring, but she finds his youthful eagerness somewhat exhausting. Much of this is very funny, and Lewis shines at painting an entire personality with a few details, but once she has established her characters she is at a loss about what to do with them. Wilder wavers back and forth between Lombardi and Pearce, even though it's obvious from the start that over-eager Pearce is only a post-divorce dalliance and Lombardi will have difficulty leaving his wife. A frothy look at what Hollywood husbands are doing behind the backs of Hollywood wives. (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-87113-586-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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