For a crowd that likes both Whitman and Spinoza and doesn’t mind some inconsistency.

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RANGE OF MOTION

A COLLECTION OF POETRY AND HAIKU WITH TWO ESSAYS

A cerebral poetry collection of haiku and free verse, accompanied by a pair of essays.

Lenzi’s poetry is dense. The voice throughout the collection is professorial and frequently scientific. In “Lightspeed,” he tiptoes into special relativity, teasing readers with the theory’s complexities as well as a smidgen of scientific history: “Galileo opined…Isaac Newton refined…but Einstein defined…how time settles its groove.” “Rhomboid,” a melodramatic description of the four-sided geometric shape, sketches a halting, if not entirely convincing, metaphor likening the rhombus’s two sets of parallel sides to the two human halves of a couple in love. Elsewhere, in a haiku titled “Horizon,” five of the poem’s 17 syllables are used on the words “vectors” and “gradient.” These three poems all appear in the collection’s first five pages. Lenzi tends to overcomplicate his subjects, often using a flashy word when a simpler construction would do. For instance, “Lake Effects” begins in autumn with the “blithe susurration of leaves overhanging a lake” and, after referencing “realpolitik by the American right,” ends on a grating analysis of war in the summertime: “Summer should not hear the soldier in prayer / It’s too lovely and too warm to die.” But for patient readers perhaps willing to reread certain poems with a dictionary or almanac in hand, there’s usually a surprising insight or description on every page. “Lake Effects” cannily reminds readers that, as the seasons endlessly roll forward and repeat, time passes and significant events transpire. What most tempers the collection’s didactic bent and broad, encyclopedic subject matter—e.g., cosmology, time and wildlife—is the mixing of long, lyrical disquisitions (“New Hampshire Pastorals” is nearly 10 pages) with shorter, more intimate free verse, such as “5:00am,” in which first-person narration adds dashes of personality missing in many of the book’s lengthier poems. Similarly, the haikus are generally more accessible, occasionally even whimsical. Lenzi’s essays extend but don’t augment the concerns of his poetry.

For a crowd that likes both Whitman and Spinoza and doesn’t mind some inconsistency.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-1492879398

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2014

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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