KEYS TO THE CITY

TALES OF A NEW YORK CITY LOCKSMITH

Kostman, a licensed Big Apple locksmith, certainly gets around the city in the pursuit of his profession. In his debut as an author (no license required), he offers a view of a few of the people and sights glimpsed beyond the doors he unlocks. This slender volume is a compilation of the odd scenes Kostman has run into over the years and the peculiar dialogues in which he was a bemused participant. The slices of life are as abundant and fragrant as a Broadway deli's pastrami on rye. As he changes tumblers or replaces lost keys, the intrepid journeyman encounters human interest with a vengeance, from 11-year-old Gloria, who looks after her apparently senile Papi, to the aging Mrs. Herzog, who believes her sister is robbing her blind. Kostman releases those locked in and lets in those locked out (never, it seems, feeling the need to verify the customer's right of passage). Bedeviled by jammed doors are doctors and gypsies, musicians and welfare clients, a psychiatrist and an East Side matron who could use one, a clandestine fireworks dealer and a troupe of naked old men. All converse freely and at length with the compliant locksmith/scribe. They may live in the precincts of poverty or in areas of affluence- -with no relationship to willingness to pay the locksmith's fee— but most of the little dramas seem to happen in dark or dank places. ``The fish and piss odors produce an overpowering stench'' in one locale. ``At the bottom,'' in another, ``the alley is dark and everything is covered with bird shit.'' These are New York kinds of tales. Short stories by a locksmith with the key to a little Pandora's box of urban yarns. Written in the present tense with a touch of tense presence, the vignettes, while not earthshaking, provide salty, easy, lively city kibitzing.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-7894-2461-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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