Legal eagles skewered—not wittily enough.

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ANONYMOUS LAWYER

Newsflash, regarding blue-chip lawyers: They’re money-grubbing, venal and vacuous. Initially biting, this satirical debut soon bores, cynicism being a one-note melody.

Hiring partner for an L.A. firm that stings clients at $675 an hour, Anonymous Lawyer makes Gordon Gecko look like Gandhi. Like Harvard Law grad Blachman, author of a popular blog, AL too pens a blog—about his bid to deep-six his rival, The Jerk, and brown-nose The New Chairman. “Person” equals “pawn” in his Machiavellian math: He gives subordinates unflattering nicknames (“The One Who’s Never Getting Married,” “The One Who Missed Her Kid’s Funeral”), bitches about anyone pilfering his secretary’s candy and damns all as slackers. You’re allowed one outside interest—family, say, or working out; The Firm owns every other breath. AL never does much of anything other than sneer. And his home life is just as horrid: He prefers America’s Top Model on TiVo to his fake-breasted wife; Anonymous Son and Daughter are disappointments. What drives him is his crusade to morph his Yale Law School niece from idealist into Shylock, and his own climb up the corporate ladder. When New Chairman dies—heart attack at 58—AL exults in the opening. The Jerk provisionally wins, but AL’s eventual worldly success (and moral downfall) end the novel on a gleefully bitter note. Blachman’s fine at capturing the high-end mise en scène—BlackBerries communing 24/7, triple-figure expense-account lunches, smirking dishonesty (lawyers bill clients for web-surfing and call it “research”). All kinda funny, and sorta telling—in a not-as-good-as-Brett-Easton-Ellis ’80s-esque way. But lacking a story, any characters who aren’t cartoons and any mood other than pissed-off, the tale leaves the reader feeling listless and mildly polluted.

Legal eagles skewered—not wittily enough.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8050-7981-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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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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