Whenever its moribund souls aren’t soliloquizing at ear-splitting volume and exhausting length, this is vivid, nasty fun.



Griffin Mill circumvents the fleshpots of Hollywood and confronts the threatening future in this abrasive sequel to novelist-scriptwriter Tolkin’s famous 1988 novel The Player.

The onetime studio golden boy is middleaged, bankrupt by industry standards (“down to his last six million dollars”); impotent with his second wife (Lisa), who’s calculating the financial benefits of leaving him; semi-estranged from his older children (by first wife June) and emotionally disturbed younger daughter. Convinced that the planet is dying, determined to finance escape to a private Pacific atoll, Griffin makes nice with bilious multiple-multimillionaire Phil Ginsberg, repeats an earlier fortune-saving expedient (literally getting away with manslaughter, if not murder) and finding on the Internet a fast lane on the avenue to restored celebrity, his peers’ respect and really outrageous wealth. This crisp amorality tale boasts enviable verbal energy, thanks to a hectoring omniscient voice that blends the accents of an Old Testament prophet with those of a favor-currying film industry press agent. Tolkin creates several terrific scenes, including Griffin’s confrontational (and fateful) meeting with octogenarian movie director Warren Swaine; a lavish bar mitzvah succeeded by a party whose décor is part Little League, part Fiddler on the Roof; tense, gut-clutching instances of bad parenting and its sad effects; and Griffin’s climactic encounter with a saturnine, world-weary Bill Clinton. All wonderful stuff—but Tolkin departs repeatedly from his nifty plot to deliver fulminations against Hollywood’s culture of self-absorption and wretched excess. And virtually every character seizes every conversational opportunity to deliver a speech: We get the point—they’re all egomaniacs. (Not that watching them tumble toward hell in Gucci-designed handbaskets doesn’t make for an absorbing spectacle.)

Whenever its moribund souls aren’t soliloquizing at ear-splitting volume and exhausting length, this is vivid, nasty fun.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8021-1801-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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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 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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