Twenty-eight short pieces that are always playful but rarely profound.



Actor Eisenberg pokes fun at our relationships to the past, each other, and ourselves in his debut collection.

These humorous stories are arranged into thematic sections like “Family,” “Sports,” and “Self-Help.” The first, fourth, and final sections—each consisting of a single, stand-alone piece—are not only the longest, but the strongest as well. The eponymous opening consists of a series of restaurant reviews by a precocious 9-year-old. He critiques a whiskey bar, an ashram, and other non–kid-friendly spots where he makes cute-but-true observations about the adult world. The story transcends this premise as the narrator’s personal life comes into view. His mother’s sadness permeates almost all their meals, and his most powerful insights are those aimed at his own life. Yes, he notes after a Thanksgiving with vegans, “it’s really sad the way that animals are killed,” but it’s sad that his parents are divorced, too. He concludes, “I guess that there are a lot of sad things in the world and sometimes eating turkey with the people you love makes you happy and maybe it would make the turkey happy to know that this was happening with its body.” In “My Roommate Stole My Ramen," Eisenberg uses the same winning formula. The narrator's privileged perspective leads to fleeting moments of humor, but her small and complex moments of growth are what leave a lasting mark. A few stories powerfully highlight absurdities, but many others are just plain absurd. “A Post-Gender-Normative Woman Tries to Pick up a Man at a Bar” is stale and predictable; “Marv Albert is My Therapist” plants the joke in the title; and “A Marriage Counselor Tries to Heckle at a Knicks Game” tells that same joke but reversed. These pieces read like stand-up more than story, lacking in character and emotional depth.

Twenty-eight short pieces that are always playful but rarely profound.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2404-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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