LOVE IS STRANGE

STORIES OF POSTMODERN ROMANCE

Novelists Rose and Texier, editors of the now-defunct Between C & D, bring together 16 stories by writers who prowl ``the edges of human experience and literary form.'' After their breathless introduction, with its frequent use of the word ``edge,'' the editors turn to many of the writers best known from their Lower East Side magazine, all of whom testify to the peculiar nature of romance in a time of disease and safe sex. The two least sentimental pieces are by gay men. David Feinberg's ``Breaking Up with Roger'' is a sad, campy tale of love between two HIV-positive men with nothing in common except a race against time. And David Wojnarowicz's ``From the Diaries of a Wolf Boy'' chronicles the down-and-out (and risk-taking) escapades of a gay hustler. Pieces from William Vollmann's The Rainbow Stories and A.M. Homes's The Safety of Objects seem selected for their self- conscious weirdness. Likewise, fairly typical and incoherent excerpts from Barry Gifford and Kathy Acker. Darius James's self- explanatory ``The Blackman's Guide to Seducing White Women with the Amazing Power of Voodoo'' is not nearly as witty as his recent novel, Negrophobia. And Trey Ellis's tale of unrequited interracial romance leads nowhere slowly. Women attracted to the wrong kinds of men narrate Lynn McFall's ``Bitter Love'' (the heroine loses an eye in a poolroom catfight); Lisa Blaushild's ``Asking For It'' (a lonely woman writes a love letter to her unknown rapist); and Daytona Beach's ``The Kid'' (a 35-year-old woman looking for a man who can move like her vibrator seduces her girlfriend's 14-year-old son). David Foster Wallace's overly long saga of politically correct love (``Order and Flux in Northampton'') is as strained and sophomoric as his previous work. And the two stories by the editors are as ineptly written as their throwaway introduction. Last gasps from a dying (and never that vital) literary scene.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 1993

ISBN: 0-393-30965-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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