Wilder writes in his prelude that he hopes these stories “might give you a little pleasure and a laugh.” They should.

READ REVIEW

WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?

STORIES

Another slim volume that should amuse the actor’s fans.

There is no answer to the question posed by the title of this collection of stories by Wilder (The Woman Who Wouldn’t, 2008, etc.). In fact, many of the narrators seem more confused in the aftermath of their romantic misadventures than they had been in the beginning. But, as one of the pair of young lovers suggests in “In Love for the First Time,” “If you always knew the ‘why’ about such things, the meaning of life wouldn’t be such a mystery.” In this particular story, an exceedingly shy boy and the more assertive object of his desire, herself a virgin, eventually make love—somehow. And that’s pretty much it. In three of the 12 stories, the protagonist is the hapless Buddy Silberman (to whom Wilder dedicates the collection as his cousin, “who really wanted love, but settled only for sex”), bumbling his way through various seductions and receiving a big surprise with the punch-line revelation of “The Hollywood Producer.” Many of these stories play out like elaborate jokes, often with a bittersweet tinge to the humor, or extended vignettes. Within them, love typically seems like a byproduct of biological urges, a matter of chance rather than destiny. “The Kiss” concerns two young actors at the Milwaukee Community Theater, with the 17-year-old girl asking her 24-year-old co-star “why they couldn’t go to his house and touch each other and see each other’s naked bodies.” When he says that she’s too young, she switches her affection to someone younger and runs off with him. True love prevails, or at least what passes for it in these stories.

Wilder writes in his prelude that he hopes these stories “might give you a little pleasure and a laugh.” They should.

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-59890-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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

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