HARD LINE

Former Reagan Administration assistant secretary of defense for international security Perle presents a policy-driven thriller- Ö-clef about State Department perfidy and the valiant, dedicated, selfless assistant secretary of defense for international security in the administration of a nameless but eerily familiar 3x5 card- flipping President who battles to save the nation from the aforementioned perfidy and from anyone in either hemisphere who would threaten the Strategic Defense Initiative. You thought the Soviets were mean and treacherous, but that's just because you don't know the real threat to peace, stability, and the balance of power—those oily, stupidly trusting, cynical WASPs who run the State Department. They're really bad. Beltway insiders are sure to be left gasping by the devastating portrait of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Dan Bennet, a totally unprincipled Princetonian who uses his old college roommate, now a liberal Stanford professor, as a back-channel to the Soviets in order to undermine the hard-hitting, coldly realistic, and increasingly successful SDI-dependent foreign policy espoused by ultradedicated Assistant Secretary of Defense, talented amateur cook, and neglectful husband Michael Waterman. How lucky the President, the Secretary of Defense, and, well, the country are to have Waterman, who stays working late at the Pentagon night after night to craft a defense policy based on reason and fact rather than Liberal Sentiment. But Waterman is about to face his greatest battle. After dreaming up a stunningly simple but immensely powerful course of action to take in the area of intermediate-range European-based missiles, he realizes that all his wonderful work is about to go down the tubes, sabotaged by the hateful Assistant Secretary Bennet, who has his own plan to give the Soviets the nuclear candy-store just for the sake of a silly treaty. Bennet and Waterman go toe-to-toe as the President and the General Secretary do the summit thing.... All the breezy charm and subtle thrills of a Nixon memoir.

Pub Date: June 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-394-56552-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992

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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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