Pleasantly nostalgic if occasionally exhausting; an ode to a city—and an era—long gone.



A swirling, name-dropping, drug-fueled, hypersaturated whirlwind of a novel set against the New York City of the 1980s and '90s, Kobek’s latest (I Hate the Internet, 2016, etc.) is a gritty coming-of-age story with quiet heart.

After the gruesome deaths of both his parents (“my mother killed my father, or was it my father who murdered my mother?”), a gay high school grad from small-town Wisconsin shows up in New York City, wanders into a squalid squat, christens himself Baby Baby Baby (just Baby, for short), and meets a rich girl with yellow sneakers who will immediately and forever change his life. Adeline, who speaks with the self-consciously stilted diction of an old Hollywood movie star—a grating habit, both for the reader and, presumably, for her friends—is a Parsons freshman, an ebullient poor-little-rich-girl with an alcoholic mother and a dead dad. Without thinking twice, she invites Baby to come live with her in her dorm room off Union Square—“you’re a sailor without any port of call,” she tells him—and the two fall into a fast and complicated friendship. As the years tick by—from Reagan to Bush to Clinton—Adeline and Baby, both artistic and, in their own ways, ambitious, come together and fall apart and come together again as the city pulses around them. The book’s tertiary characters read like a who’s who of the times: gay sci-fi writer Thomas M. Disch lives in their building—an early role model for Baby, who will also become a science-fiction writer, though he doesn’t yet know it—but also David Wojnarowicz, Bret Easton Ellis, Norman Mailer, and Dorian Corey of Paris Is Burning fame. There is a prolonged period, in the late '80s when Baby becomes a Club Kid, thereby making the acquaintance of both Michael Alig and the man, Angel Melendez, whom Alig would later murder with a hammer. But to the extent that there is propeller to the book, besides the passage of time, it is the bond between Baby and Adeline, which outlives even their own shifting identities.

Pleasantly nostalgic if occasionally exhausting; an ode to a city—and an era—long gone.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2248-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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