An artfully told tale of trade, caste and the obsessive mindset of collectors.

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AN OBJECT OF BEAUTY

The NYC art world, seen through the eyes of its most impartial constituents.

In his latest novel, Martin (Born Standing Up, 2007, etc.) unveils an ambitious and heartfelt analysis of both the complexity and absurdity of the Manhattan art market. It begins, appropriately enough, with a confession. “I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager, yet I worry that unless I write her story down, and see the manuscript bound and tidy on my bookshelf, I will be unable to ever write about anything else.” This declaration spills from arts writer David Franks, who finds a small universe encapsulated in the life of his subject, ex-lover Lacey. From this humble beginning, David chronicles the rise and fall of the fine-art market from the late '90s through the present day, complete with record-breaking prices, art thefts and the premature globalization of a complex system. After college, Lacey and David enter the burgeoning artistic world, Lacey as a grunt at Sotheby’s, David as a struggling writer. David habitually profiles Lacey, an insanely determined dealer with a passion for creativity and wealth. Martin offers fascinating literary capers, mixing in real-life elements like a fictional run-in with novelist John Updike and the spectacular $500 million dollar theft at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. As Lacey graduates to art speculation and gallery ownership, Martin populates her world with a host of compelling characters, among them a desperately infatuated Parisian broker, a manipulative and powerful mentor, and Pilot Mouse, a minor boyfriend who reinvents himself as a Banksy-like artistic guerrilla. To add to the reader’s experience, Martin includes reproductions of artwork referenced in the text, lending another layer of sophistication to an already absorbing story.

An artfully told tale of trade, caste and the obsessive mindset of collectors.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-57364-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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