Nonsense, largely, crafted to frame Fischer’s dead-on social observations and murderous wit, and if you’re in the mood, it’s...

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VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE ROOM

An agoraphobe in London muses and reminisces. She has much to remember and ponder, most of it very funny indeed.

The latest excuse for a plot for Fischer (I Like Being Killed, 2000, etc.) to work his wit on is the morbid houseboundness of Oceane, a young dancer who found opportunity and support in Barcelona’s sex industry but who has since moved on to software, where she has made enough in licensing to live pleasantly in her own flat in a marginal but not life-threatening neighborhood. She doesn’t leave her building because she doesn’t have to and because it’s really repulsive in the streets these days. Oceane does do a bit of virtual traveling, and she makes trips to what she calls the “beach,” the common area downstairs where the mail sent to long-departed residents of the building sloshes around on the floor like so much flotsam. On one trip to the beach she meets Audley, a bill collector whose target left years ago. Oceane engages him to collect wages owed but unpaid by a business client, and then, when a letter from a ten-year-dead lover arrives, she sends Audley to Barcelona and farther to check that out. The dead letter trips memories of her days as a sex object that fill half the book, and effectively, since live sex is a funny subject and Fischer, when he’s on a roll, is about as funny as anyone writing today. Oceane’s colleagues are a mostly amiable lot. There are athletic lesbians from Dallas, a breathtakingly gorgeous and epically potent but totally self-involved bodybuilder (her partner in the show), and Heidi, who seems to be, well, a sexual black hole, a woman of spectacular gravity. Audley has his own story to tell involving the Bosnian war and, eventually, Oceane.

Nonsense, largely, crafted to frame Fischer’s dead-on social observations and murderous wit, and if you’re in the mood, it’s pretty wonderful.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58243-297-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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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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