An ambitious novel whose frantic pace and quixotic nature obscure its plot.

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PINEAPPLE

A COMIC NOVEL IN VERSE

A New Mexico spy and her friends stumble upon a murderous plan involving a dangerous new weapon in Taylor’s (Let There Be Lite, 2014, etc.) novel in verse.

Taylor’s unique novel, written almost entirely in rhyming poetry, is largely narrated by a character also named Joe Taylor (more affectionately known as Our Beloved Writer). His muse, Trixie, aka “Dixie” or “Pixie,” reads his pages and offers up effervescent, sexually charged critiques. His story is about four friends, their families, and associates in Los Alamos, New Mexico (“the town that spawned the atom bomb”). Dockworker Hank Riser has just bought a new, two-story rancho, and he’s anxious for his girlfriend, Carmen Brown, to move in. Hank has an inkling that she’s a spy; as it happens, she’s investigating a cartel that deals in science instead of drugs. Somehow, the tech for a new weapon, the “G-string gun,” has been stolen by the cartel and is being used to kill off young women. Along with friends Dave McDowell and Lorrie Taylor, Carmen and Hank aim to crack the case, helped along by a wacky “Morguemeister” and his medical examiner/assistant. Some shady characters drop off tickets to a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Otello in Santa Fe, which may hold the key to solving the case. Taylor’s story in rhyme is definitely an adventurous narrative in terms of structure and style, although it works best when the action is more grounded. Joe’s scenes with Trixie are the most helpful for understanding a narrative that’s a bit of a riddle. Carmen is an intriguing character, tough and determined, though she feels underdeveloped, as chapters sometimes end in a cursory manner (“No sense in ending this chapt. with a turd”) before they make complete sense. The playfully vulgar and sometimes-witty story does have a plot, but it’s often buried under tangents, asides, and extraneous dialogue. Acronyms and abbreviations for characters’ names also tend to be confusing; the helpful character list at the end should have been placed at the beginning.

An ambitious novel whose frantic pace and quixotic nature obscure its plot.

Pub Date: June 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944697-27-3

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Sagging Meniscus Press

Review Posted Online: June 7, 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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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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