An offbeat work of carnivalesque proportions, populated by zany, outspoken, and eccentric personalities.

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Any Resemblance To A Coincidence Is Accidental

An ambitious book offers an amalgam of opinion, satire, and character sketch.  

Armed with a brain-teasingly bizarre title that foretells its peculiar contents, this volume features a chorus of quirky voices chanting messages of solidarity, gay pride, and anti-homogeneous individualism. The book opens with an anonymous woman’s exquisitely sarcastic rant parodying a social media outlet (“Fakebook”), accusing it of “destroying friendship,” and musing over the digital impermanence of modern culture and communication. She considers herself an “incredible fag hag.” After pondering the significance of fetishes and Nueva Jork life, she acerbically introduces her artistic, gay “fiend-frienemy” Noloso Chushingura and launches a literary fever-dream of colorfully dizzying co-narrators and their sordid escapades. Noloso is a man who is abandoning his longtime residence in “Disneyfied” Nueva Jork for his childhood home, Mucha Nieve. Unsatisfied still, he flees there for wintry “Palin-town,” where no-nonsense, pragmatic Pavlina Perestroika gets into a mysterious 1975 Buick Regal and begins an otherworldly journey to another land yet returns just in time for Bobby Bluetooth’s comedy set at a nearby cafe. Readers searching for some cohesive link to the stories and their kaleidoscope of curious characters may become dumbfounded by the time lesbian Koontessa Klarissa Koontberger introduces her two adopted children “of indeterminate sexuality.” Giovanni Zsazsasky exchanges gay bars for eBay shopping as the ultimate “go-to pacifier in moments of thumb-sucking sadness,” and wand-waving superheroine Dolores The Day-Glo Drag Queen issues orders commanding the end of abusive Jean-Nette The Jet Lag Fag Hag’s life. This is the third book by Canadian fiction writer and visual artist Bird (Hideous Exuberance, 2013, etc.). Thankfully, lurking beneath all of the snarky commentary and cheekiness are honest reflections of contemporary society, including the gay community’s struggle to vanquish shame and the much-protested incremental gentrification of major metropolitan areas. Not all of this oddly creative volume works, however, with some sections dissolving into garbled gibberish and others becoming overpowered by all of Bird’s slapdash wackiness. Overall, the book’s unconventional spellings, sentence fragments, line-drawn chapter headings, and haiku work well in unison to create a devilishly original tableau of true outlandishness with a conscience.

An offbeat work of carnivalesque proportions, populated by zany, outspoken, and eccentric personalities.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-34777-5

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Hysterical Dementia

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2016

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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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