THE LAST BONGO SUNSET

Plesko's prolix debut looks at the routine of a college drop-out taking a walk on the wild side—but a reader can only handle so many trips before feeling as numb and alienated as the heroin addicts who litter these pages. The press release explains that Plesko, a Hungarian immigrant, lived as a pimp, dealer, thief, and junkie in Venice Beach, Calif., in the early 1970s and survived to ``tell the tale.'' But true stories don't necessarily make good stories—in fact, they aren't necessarily stories at all. Although the narrative relates the experiences of a young man named College who leaves the comfort of a prestigious Boston university for the danger and excitement of a shabby West Coast apartment and dark, new friends, the novel has no plot. It's a mindless pastiche of scoring, shooting up, riding highs, remembering sad snippets of the past, reliving painful events, and prostitution. As soon as College arrives in California, he hooks up with a pimp named Gary and a prostitute named Cassandra, who turn his pad into a shooting gallery and teach him the arts of smack: cooking down the brown powder, teasing and piercing a vein, registering twice to eliminate deadly air bubbles, never nodding off, and scratching during the trip (because it feels real good). The first time College plunges that syringe into his arm, there's a sickening voyeuristic pleasure; the second time, there's the confidence of knowing what's going on; the third time, it's old hat; and, after that, it's just plain boring. What's worse, the stuff in between (Cassandra's past filled with rape and incest; College's memories of the prostitute mother he was forced to leave behind in Hungary when he was six; the seduction of a 13-year-old runaway into a life of dope and sex-for-hire) is too wordy and dreamy, and all the stories start to sound the same. Monotonous and self-indulgent.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-671-88049-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more