TRASH

Translated here into English for the first time, Yamada, author of over 20 novels, tells a banal story of an insecure Asian woman in love with an alcoholic, and sometimes abusive, African-American man in New York City. Yamada introduces some potentially powerful themes in this book: interracial dating, emotional and physical abuse, addiction, older women who date younger men, homosexuality, what it means to be a parent. But it reads more like a foreigner's idea of that crazy New York scene than an interpretation from someone who really knows the city. She introduces these ideas one after the other, but, for the most part, fails to follow through to any honest revelations. Koko is a beautiful young Japanese woman who works in a Greenwich Village art gallery. It would have been nice if Yamada had fleshed out Koko's background so that her reasons for letting herself get caught up in a relationship with the eternally elusive and intoxicated Rick made more sense. But as it is, readers don't understand why she spends her days cleaning up vomit and taking care of his angry, pubescent son and her nights waiting for the lush to stumble home. In all fairness, Yamada suggests that Koko may delight in the fact that she and Rick aren't on equal terms, and we can't help but notice that she reaches for a gin-and-tonic during periods of emotional stress—but all this is just mentioned in passing. Despite everything, Koko assures herself she's not unhappy, and not until she falls in love with a sweet and generous college student does she dump Rick. Koko isn't big on self-examination, so don't expect her to question the tenderness with which she showers Rick after he bashes her face in, or to wonder why she can't be alone. Trying too hard to be hip yet meaningful, this novel goes on and on and on and never says a thing. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-56836-018-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Kodansha

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1994

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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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