Wednesday, June 3, 2009


by Rebecca Rosenblum

The party was dense with scent: mushrooms caps seared with chili oil, J'adore perfume, spilt beer, peach Febreeze.

“You'll like Kenny,” Ravi told Gwen, tugging her across the room “He's a book critic, and you love books!”

A man dressed as a boy turned to greet them. His pretty curls were tied back in a terrycloth scrunchy, his madras shirt untucked from cargo shorts, all pocket flaps open.

He shook her hand firmly.

“So you're a book reviewer—that’s so fascinating!”

“Oh no!” Kenny swigged from a fluted glass of something pink. “Book reviewers write puff pieces for money. A critic...that's not a job, it's a vocation.”

“Still…it must be great to introduce good books to people.”

Seconds passed, Kenny gaping, Gwen squirming, Ravi trying to work a baby carrot through the artichoke dip.

Finally: “Sad to say, that don't happen too often. What kills me is, more often I wind up getting hatemail because I write a negative review of some damn Oprah book about the glory maternal love.”

“But Oprah did Love in the Time of Cholera.”

“You know what I mean, the fucking ‘inspirational reads.’ They fucking kill me.”

Ravi turned for the F-bombs, slopping dip down the buttons of his shirt. “What?”

Kenny slammed down his flute so hard Gwen thought the stem would break. When she reached out to steady it, she discovered it was made out of plastic. “You know what I mean.”

“Actually—” said Gwen.

“When you actually go through publishers’ catalogues, it’s shocking how much garbage gets published every year. The odds an assigned book will result in a positive review are low indeed.”

“There’s lots of new books I like.”

“Seriously? I’m interested, seriously, in getting your perspective. Ravi said you, work in finance, right? So you don’t have the background or anything.”

Gwen thought of all the twisting mysteries, bizarre local histories, glitzy biographies she’d loved in the past year. She could try to deal a serious blow to Kenny’s cynicism. But then she thought about having to continue the conversation another hour, never getting any dip and missing the Balderdash game entirely. And she knew he had to be killed outright.

“Well, one big recommendation is the latest in a series… You might think you know the Chicken Soup books, but I bet you haven’t read the one for the American Idol Soul.”

The plastic glass fell to the floor as Kenny staggered back, gasping, gutshot.

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