SERIOUSLY FUNNY

Laugh-a-minute collection of short rhyming verse for adults.

It would seem that Eastaugh has never met a situation he couldn’t laugh about—or versify, for that matter. This assemblage of more than 200 poems, capturing a decade’s output, treats no subject as sacrosanct and suggests that the best way to tackle life’s biggest challenges is to poke holes in them until they’ve been cut down to manageable size. A few jabs in your own ribs, just to keep yourself honest, rounds out the jester philosophy. Eastaugh roams widely across subjects as varied as the circle of life, loneliness, pop culture, the nature of happiness, generation gaps, sex, drinking, nostalgia, racism and, naturally, the ever-shrinking size of mobile phones. In fact, the quirky, comedic plot twist, usually involving diving precipitously from lofty subjects to land unceremoniously on the grossly mundane, may be the literary device he has most completely mastered. He evinces a flair for sketching out what appear to be sweet, innocent scenarios only to jolt the reader (and often the narrator) with some jarring juxtaposition at the last moment—lovemaking that transforms to cannibalism; a beautiful woman who, post coitum, turns out to be a mustachioed man; an attempt to borrow a book that ends up in an uncomfortably thorough medical exam. Eastaugh gleefully subjects his narrators to a feverishly imaginative variety of harrowing, hilarious situations that bespeak some level of evil genius. Employing a simple, singsong rhythm of iambs and anapests and a strictly regular rhyme scheme, Eastaugh plays off nursery rhyme and greeting card forms to sing songs scatological and sexual, a very successful formal technique, at least until he wants to treat a serious subject. His one-register voice is the one weak point here. Poems about the mysteries of existence, the darker side of human nature and the challenges and indignities of his multiple sclerosis too often fail to generate pathos, sounding, as they do, exactly like his sillier pieces. As funny and subversively socially conscious as they may be, these poems are sure to offend nearly as many as they delight. Eastaugh pulls few punches, in his subject matter and in his handling of that subject matter, and, in this fashion, resembles perhaps no one more than the comedian Louis C.K. For those bold enough to brave the wicked irony, though, the payoff is well worth it. A delightful bit of mischief and verbal horseplay. 

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2010

ISBN: 978-1452053547

Page Count: 230

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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