A satiric, facetious and laugh-out-loud funny first novel.



Masterly how-to advice from TV comedy writer Hely’s fictional narrator about creating a bestseller—no, make that a “literary product.”

Hey, anybody can write a novel, right? That’s the thought going through Pete Tarslaw’s head when he reads about Preston Brooks’ bestseller Kindness to Birds. Tarslaw’s goals as a novelist can be reduced to a few simple wants: fame, money and getting a few hot chicks on the side. Tarslaw also has a more concrete goal—to humiliate his former girlfriend Polly at her wedding, upstaging her by arriving as a Famous Novelist. Although he sets to work avidly, keeping his eye on a few rules (abandon truth, do not waste energy making it a good book, at dull points include descriptions of delicious meals), he finds that writing a novel is hard work, and he doesn’t quite know how to get going. “Do you just start writing sentences?” he says. “That seemed a bit rash.” Fueled by an experimental pharmaceutical provided by his roommate, he manages to write his magnum opus, The Tornado Ashes Club. He eagerly plans to watch it rise meteorically on Amazon.com and even fantasizes laudatory reviews (“Love, loss, and the soul of truth are explored when a wrongly accused man goes on a road trip with his grandmother and a Mexican folksinger”). The reality, however, is somewhat different. As one respected reviewer comments, “It’s much like a Las Vegas buffet: everything’s there, but none of it’s very good.” Doesn’t matter, though, for the novel becomes something of a cult hit, especially after our hero trashes Preston Brooks’ reputation by accusing him of the very fault Tarslaw himself is guilty of: turning writing into a formulaic con game foisted on a naïve and unsuspecting reading public. In a sobering moment, Brooks defends himself against Tarslaw’s puerile comments.

A satiric, facetious and laugh-out-loud funny first novel.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8021-7060-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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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 modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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