Fancher’s writing is long on whimsy but short on humor.




Bizarre stories, some bordering on the absurd and others going over the border.

Fancher’s best story is “The Climacteric of Zackary Ray,” a tale of an over-the-hill movie actor who had once reveled in playing evil characters with a dash of humanity. Ray glories in the reflections of one reviewer who claimed his performances exhibited “the gears of corruption lubricated with honey,” but such praise is unrecoverable because it is so far in Ray’s past. In the present, he’s deep in gin and self-pity. Another story involving a failed actor—this one far more surreal than “Zackary Ray”—is called “Cargot.” The “hero” (though the boldness of the word is misplaced) reclaims a new identity but shuns a first name, choosing instead the initial “S” (yes, it’s French). Ultimately, he undertakes a long journey up the body of the wife of a hated producer, getting a kind of revenge of intimacy. The most involved story is “The Black Weasel,” which Fancher presents in two parts, separated by four other stories. Here, Spencer Hooler returns to his home in Townsville, Miss., from New York (where he works at a nightclub called “The Torture Chamber,” which he redundantly informs us is a “specialty club”) immediately after his mother’s death, accompanied by a black man known as Mot who barks rather than speaks. In a twist on Huck Finn, Spencer tries to turn Mot into a circus wild man. Along the way we meet a cast of eccentrics that include Spencer’s almost constantly drunk sister (called Sister). We also hear of Spencer’s dead father, who taught a cat to walk backwards. (Spencer’s sure of this because his mother showed him a black-and-white picture of it.)

Fancher’s writing is long on whimsy but short on humor.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15823-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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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 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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