An often hilarious kitchen sink of a debut, one more example of a satire providing new examples left and right of the...



Comedy is not pretty for either writers or performers in playwright/television writer Greeland’s exuberant, massively untidy first novel.

Frank Bones has been the reigning bad boy of American standup for ages, but he’s never scored with a wider audience. At 48, Frank still has the comic reflexes, the dark vision (“people are evil”) and the lovely live-in, Hot Ninja Bounty Hunters cult star Honey Call. But Frank wants more; he wants his own TV show, a series that’s all about him and no one else. The Lynx Network, however, doesn’t want to bankroll My Life and High Times; they want Frank to star in Kirkuk, whose head writer, Orson Dubinsky, promises to make it “an apocalyptic-spaghetti-noir half-hour Eskimo thing.” When golden Hollywood hack Lloyd Melnick turns down Frank’s groveling request to write a pilot for My Life and High Times, he sets in motion a plot that suggests Rube Goldberg in a wind tunnel. It’s obvious from the many barely disguised portraits of studio princelings and hangers-on in this roman à clef that Greenland has made some important discoveries about Hollywood: Stars and writers alike are really ambitious; they’re obsessed with money, sex, and power even when they’re trying to raise money for their pet charities; they’re all pitifully insecure; and the most successful of them aren’t necessarily the most talented. For the first two-thirds of his tale, Greenland floats some extremely funny one-liners on a cantus firmus drawn from Jackie Collins, Michael Tolkin, and Tom Wolfe. But a sequence barely adapted from The Bonfire of the Vanities sends Frank on a downward spiral to Tulsa, and the plot, juiced by a spectacularly unconvincing homicide, goes even further into deep space until it drifts out too far to recall.

An often hilarious kitchen sink of a debut, one more example of a satire providing new examples left and right of the excesses it thinks it’s condemning.

Pub Date: March 14, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-550-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

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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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.


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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