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Short Takes for July 2015 

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THE UNFORTUNATES

Sophie McManus

Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2015, $26

Is the title of this scalpel-sharp debut novel by Vassar grad McManus ironic? Depends how you define "fortune." Cecelia Somner epitomizes old-money privilege, impulsively buying her son George the oceanfront mansion next door as a wedding gift, but misfortune reigns. CeCe is ill, literally in bed with Big Pharma, while George drains the family coffers to fund his appalling opera. The one percent never looked worse. Appearing with Rebecca Dinerstein 7/10 at 7pm, Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck.

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TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD

Carter Ratcliff

Station Hill of Barrytown, 2015, $18.95

Celebrated art critic Ratcliff and Barrytown's uberliterary Station Hill Press take a runway strut on the wild side. Libidinous, irresistibly confident supermodel Fiona Mays casts her smoldering American Tomboy gaze over a cultural landscape of body-obsessed fashionistas, thuggish Russian oligarchs, and bonehead art collectors. This sparkling comic cocktail bears bookjacket blurbs by John Ashbery and the editors of Interview and Art in America; now that's provenance.

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LOVE, JUSTICE, AND OTHER DECEPTIONS

short stories by Walter Keady

Castletree Books, 2015, $20

In the opening story, "Mary Hughes' Holiday," the parish housekeeper who's been solemnly declared "the acme of feminine respectability" in a village pub goes to Galway for her first-ever holiday and comes back a new woman. In the last, "Variations on Winning," a lottery ticket changes the odds for two mismatched couples. A great deal of life is lived in the 18 stories between, cleverly woven by Keady, an Irish expatriate and former priest who now lives in Millbrook.

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DIARY OF A PUERTO RICAN DEMIGOD

Edwin Sanchez

Amazon, 2015, $15.95

Scooped up by a megarich sugar daddy from his one and only Broadway gig, "street cute" chorus boy Javi Rivera spends the next 20 years living large. Now his partner's traded him in for a younger model, and he's getting a heavy dose of reality training. Award-winning playwright Sanchez gives great phrase—he may be the first novelist ever to use "Elaine Stritch" as a verb—and his divinely resilient narrator is hilarious and affecting company.

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SECOND CUTTING

Tom Nolan

Ring of Fire Publishing, 2014, $12.99

Teenage Kevin O'Malley, uprooted from Queens when his cop father takes a state trooper job in upstate New York, peels out on his bike—his only mode of escape till his driving permit comes through—and wipes out on loose gravel. A local farmboy and his alluring, polio-stricken sister tend Kevin's wounds, and open up new worlds of longing, love, and loss. This pungent, eventful coming-of-age story gets both the 1950s details and the timeless hormones just right.

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BERMUDA GOLD

Lee Slonimsky

Moonshine Cove, 2015, $12.95

When Bronx-based private investigator J. E. Rexroth is hired by a high-strung wife complaining about phone harassment, he's expecting a dull matrimonial case. Instead, he's drawn into a whirlpool of high-stakes international intrigue stretching from the Catskills to the Caribbean: offshore clone funds, Afghan heroin, ritual murder, and more. Red Hook author Slonimsky is a poet and hedge fund manager; both hats serve him well in this smart, twisty tale with a serious undertow.

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