A dense and confusing parody of The Great Gatsby.

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The Great Landzman

THREE TIMES THE KING

Jewusiak reimagines an American classic by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

With his debut novel, Jewusiak takes a postmodern jackhammer to The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s most famous work. Nick Carramel is an anti-Semite. Delsey and Jillian deconstruct the metaphors of the story as they introduce them. James Landzman, a former soldier and circus acrobat who performed under the moniker “The Great Gatsby,” is even more inscrutable and laden with symbolism than Fitzgerald’s creation. These bizarro versions of Nick Carraway and company spend the book discussing modernist literature, capitalism, and the American dream while a narrator (not Carramel) denigrates the characters and speculates on which actors might be best to portray them in a film version. Some segments of the book are essentially essays on topics like the nature of myth; others are epistolary findings from the files of the characters, included by the narrator in an attempt to reach the (unreachable) truth of Landzman’s true nature. Cloaked in Lemony Snicket–esque layers of metafiction, Jewusiak, the narrator, Landzman, Carramel, Fitzgerald, and Jay Gatsby himself begin to merge into one tangled archetype of American power, deception, authorship, and authority. Jewusiak has an indisputable talent for language, invoking Fitzgerald as he spins his own rambling poetry: “The big spenders, the high rollers, the small town boosters chomping down on the big sloppy wet cigars, gathered like a great host from the provinces, the backwaters and boondocks to get plastered on the distilled spirits of exhilaration.” At over 400 pages, the book is twice the length of Gatsby, though its thesis is far less discernible. The author’s explanation of his project in the postscript includes words for would-be critics and advice for those unamused by his work (“the majority of people don’t find what I say funny either, so you have a lot of company; join the Gestapo”). Readers will decide for themselves whether the book is funny or not, but Jewusiak’s particular arguments are largely lost in the morass. In the end, the reader is confident only that the author remains angry at a lot of people, including, perhaps, the reader.

A dense and confusing parody of The Great Gatsby.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9970967-0-5

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Landcaster Press

Review Posted Online: July 2, 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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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