Television anchor Lehrer (Flying Crows, 2004, etc.) offers light amusement in an academia where everyone seems perpetually...

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THE FRANKLIN AFFAIR

A diversion about scholars of early American history who venerate Ben Franklin—who may have been as unscrupulous as many of them seem to be.

Glamorous Rebecca Kendall Lee, popular historian and TV guest, may have plagiarized a goodly bundle in Ronald Reagan: The Last Founding Father. As a consequence, she stands before an august panel of the ARHA (American Revolution Historical Association), who will determine her fate after verifying the crime. Trouble is, haughty Rebecca has scraped up her own evidence of plagiarism and lets the panelists know she’ll use it against them if they’re arrogant enough to find against her. Meanwhile, even bigger things are going on. As the panel ponders, Philadelphia is commemorating the death of Wally Rush, the great Franklin scholar and author of the wildly popular bestsellers Ben One and Ben Two. The dead scholar’s faithful friend and research associate is historian Reginald Raymond Taylor (he goes by “R”), one of the ARHA panel members on the Rebecca case. R, having grabbed the Amtrak train from the Rebecca hearing in D.C. up to Philly, learns that he’s been declared Wally Rush’s literary executor and, on top of that, that the Babbitt-like president of BFU (Benjamin Franklin University) wants R to head up a Franklin center—with comely and intelligent Clara Hopkins possibly as colleague. As tempting as Clara may be, though, R is already promised to fellow historian (and blocked writer) Samantha. Lots more than just sexual conflict is afoot, however, after R reads the explosive letter Wally Rush left for him. Could it be true? Could Franklin really have done that? It will be up to R to save or forever tarnish the reputation of the great Franklin—even as another revelation, this one about R himself, will make the Rebecca affair look like small change.

Television anchor Lehrer (Flying Crows, 2004, etc.) offers light amusement in an academia where everyone seems perpetually on leave, classroom drudgery a thing unknown.

Pub Date: May 24, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6198-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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