Showy, but seldom the great Balzac Ian roars of kitchen hell.

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Famed stylist Brite (Lost Souls, 1992) abandons the horror field to follow her bliss into a mainstream novel set in the food world and restaurants of her adopted home, New Orleans.

Most recently (Plastic Jesus, 2000), Brite took on John Lennon and Paul McCartney as alter egos for her heroes, but her style had none of the soaring excess that powers her best work, nor was she up to finding prose equal to the Beatles’ sublimity, as she was able for R.Crumb’s penwork and Charlie Parker’s bop sax in Drawing Blood. Exquisite Corpse was a splatterpunk stunt. Aside from descriptions of original alcohol-soaked viands, this outing finds Brite restrained to bloodlessness. Two gay cooks, Rickey and G-man, who’ve been best friends since childhood and now live together, drink together, and often work together in kitchens of varied New Orleans restaurants, aspire to open their own restaurant and present a cuisine whose every dish is laced, soaked, spiced or in some way flavored with fine liquors. The restaurant’s name: Liquor. This offers Brite some fancy moments, as in describing a tender (nonalcoholic) Gulf shrimp appetizer “spiked with tasso ham, tossed in a spicy beurre blanc, set atop a pool of five-pepper jelly, and garnished with pickled okra. The dish had a bright, complex flavor: first you tasted the sweetness of the shrimp and butter, then the gastrique’s sourness and the tart burn of the peppers.” The author brings more energy to her cooking, though, than to her plot, which turns on the two lads being backed by high-roller Lenny Duveteaux, who may have crooked reasons for backing them. One waits for a Mafia tie to rise up and add some oregano to the French cuisine. But it’s not forthcoming, and we’re left with a villain who is a cokehead chef who hates Rickey, wants to do him in, but fails in villainous brilliance.

Showy, but seldom the great Balzac Ian roars of kitchen hell.

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-5007-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2004

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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

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