Food writing to die for, but little humor in the seasoning.

PRIME

Feisty horror stylist Brite—of 1992’s Lost Souls, still her best—returns with a sequel to Liquor (2004).

Previously, two young gays, Rickey and G-man, opened their own restaurant in New Orleans and based their entire menu on fancy booze-flavored dishes. Here, it’s two years later, and they’ve become famous, as has Liquor, with great reviews in the New York Times and Gourmet. But now a local review by Humphrey Wildblood seems to trash the restaurant while really trashing shady chef Lenny Duveteaux, whose investment in Liquor makes him part-owner. Actually, the bad review has been prompted by New Orleans DA Placide Treat, who, despite being admired during his 24 years in office, fears that Lenny’s personal lawyer, Oscar De La Cerda, will give him a strong run for office. Treat, it happens, unleashed his son Humphrey Wildblood (a nom de plume) onto Liquor. Rickey and G-man want to buy Lenny out and own Liquor wholly but haven’t the cash. When Texas zillionaire Fred Firestone, who owns the failing Firestone restaurant in Dallas, offers Rickey $10,000 for a week’s consultancy in Dallas, Rickey at first thinks no, but when the wiring of Liquor’s old cooler setup fails and heavy expense arises for a new cooler, he chooses to take up the offer. Lenny, meanwhile, has been arrested by DA Treat and had his ten years of taped telephone calls impounded. When critic Wildblood returns for another meal, he and Rickey have a fuming face-off, with Wildblood making Rickey an offer to give evidence against Lenny. Soon Rickey’s off to Dallas to help award-winning chef and author Cooper Stark straighten out his Dallas menu. After getting raves for his help, he returns to the Big Easy only to hear that Coop has killed himself and willed Rickey his entire estate, including an apartment house. What is it that links Fred Firestone in Dallas to DA Placide Treat?

Food writing to die for, but little humor in the seasoning.

Pub Date: March 22, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-5008-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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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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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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