Filled with insight into Southern California, the novel ultimately devolves in a quest for individuality narrated by an...

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Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

A novel about one man’s coming-of-age in Southern California from debut author Miller.

Jake Reed is a young man who wonders where exactly his life is headed. Bored with his job running social media for a real estate firm, Jake decides to head out on his own to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. A writer, he feels, needs life experience. And life experience is exactly what he plans on getting as he explores West Hollywood and Manhattan Beach. Though his journey doesn’t take him far from Los Angeles County (save for a business trip to New Jersey), Jake encounters a variety of people. Befriending drug addicts, a reality show actor, immigrants, easy women and an elderly gentleman who lives in a hotel, Jake encounters a wide swath of characters as he enjoys (or fails to enjoy) sex, drugs and Facebook. With his laptop at the ready, his writing often becomes sporadic, though his dream always remains focused. Jake will become a writer, and he will do it in California. Miller skillfully depicts Southern California’s nuances. How different could West Hollywood and Manhattan Beach be, the uninitiated reader may wonder? Full of cultural details answering such questions, Jake’s journey has its moments of interest, even if Jake himself often does not. Overjoyed by vinyl records and encounters with authenticity (such as when Jake visits a Greek restaurant, orders a Greek beer, and the cheerful counterperson points out, “You’re the first non-Greek around here to ask for a Greek beer”), Jake can come across as simple but good-natured. In spite of his adventures, however, he remains largely unchanged. Many readers will likely sympathize with Jake and his dreams, though few are likely to find those dreams compelling, particularly when his ambitions are forestalled by unoriginal, small-scale debauchery.

Filled with insight into Southern California, the novel ultimately devolves in a quest for individuality narrated by an uninspiring individual.

Pub Date: June 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0983896111

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Fernando French Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2013

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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