A lushly descriptive experimental coming-of-age novel, the second offering from the Illinois State University/Fiction Collective Two's ``On the Edge: New Women's Fiction'' series (after Cris Mazza's Is it Sexual Harassment Yet?, p. 205). This one is notable for its wordplay—truly Joycean at best, arch or even ostentatious at worst—and its evocation of the pleasures and horrors of adolescence. Served up in 11 largely self-contained chapters, each headed by a quotation (ironic in context) from the children's book Madeline, the story refers incessantly to Joyce and his works. It's part precocious acting-out, part Kathy Acker-like homage to a source and a master, and part a moving impressionistic elegy. The title story is typical: it moves all the way from a lyrical reminiscence of parochial school to a takeoff on Gulliver's Travels, from a litany of instances that are sometimes effective (if mean-spirited, a common fault throughout here) but that too often degenerate into supercilious or silly catalogues. Likewise, ``Killing the Shrimp'' turns into an affected Joycean stream-of- consciousness. In ``Corndog,'' a man ``partial to little girls'' brings the narrator to Nabokov: ``You are Humbert Humbert and I was your yes yes girl.'' ``Debbit Does Dublin: Hair of the Dog'' is finally too cute for its own good (``to forge in the smithy of her sex tightening her bottom to let out a few smut words...''). The problem with Thompson wearing her sources (and her subconscious) on her sleeve is that this feels in the end—despite passages of clever, sensuous writing—like seminar stuff, its truly bone- cutting humor and wonderful sense of play, its depth of feeling, lost in all the clutter. A writer to watch, but this one is closer to the automatic throwaway prose of Dylan liner notes than to the genius of Joyce. Excerpts have appeared in such literary magazines as Black Ice, Fiction International, and The Quarterly.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-932511-41-4

Page Count: 197

Publisher: FC2/Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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

Did you like this book?