A sardonic little bomb of a book, ripe with black comedy and shivering with anger.



Experimental filmmaker, unlucky in love and finances, writes letters to his lawyer in the great beyond.

Jarleth Prendergast is a right likable fellow, at least to his own way of thinking. Late of Dublin, Jarleth has been scrounging around the East Village for some years as an experimental filmmaker. In actuality, he’s a thirtysomething nobody who works at a copy shop and sponges off his politically active Latina wife Martha. Like a bolt out of the blue comes a letter from Dublin attorney Sean Reynolds informing Jarleth that his aunt has just passed away, leaving him over $30,000. Jarleth is over the moon and already planning how to get his film career kicked off—tentative title of his magnum (short) opus, done with puppets: “Orange/Green Mould: Mr. Semtex Agent of Death in Toytown”—when he gets another letter informing him that Sean has passed away. This doesn’t keep the eternally inebriated Jarleth from composing a series of missives to the late attorney, whom he has decided, in the manner of the drunk, is one of his new best friends. Reduced to sleeping in his studio after being kicked out by Martha (she found evidence of one of his many romantic indiscretions), Jarleth gets word that a new will has been found which leaves him not a dollar. Thus we see Jarleth explode onto the streets of New York with a righteous frenzy, just begging for some sort of demented cause to sink his teeth into. Such a cause appears in the form of a rich man whom Jarleth is convinced once molested an ex-girlfriend of his (the chain of logic is long and stinks of whiskey). Will this man’s death become Jarleth’s last reason for living? Brosnan has a good time relating Jarleth’s expletive-laced rantings in all their pretentious fury, a kind of ironic counterpoint to Irvine Welsh’s self-glorifying gutter trash.

A sardonic little bomb of a book, ripe with black comedy and shivering with anger.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2004

ISBN: 1-56478-353-7

Page Count: 175

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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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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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.


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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