ATLAS SHRUGGED

One finds oneself virtually under an indefinable compulsion to keep reading once caught in the mesh of sheer story telling as Ayn Rand weaves the strands of her fantasy. With one part of reason, one tries to reject the grim horror of the portrait she draws of the final bastion of the once free world falling into a new sort of Dark Ages. The sins of the power magnates are taking their toll. In terror over the threat to their security contained in the ruthless drive of a few leaders of industry, they sell out their initiative, their imagination, their creative powers, their right to independence of thought and action to government, in exchange for imagined security of regulation and strangulation. The thinkers, the creators, the doers, the free spirits fade out of the picture; those who remain label them deserters and traitors. But a few of them, under the leadership of the freest spirits, lay the groundwork for a new social order. Their philosophy has much that will shock the conventional; their oath — "...I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine" — seems to contain a negation of the code of humanity. There seems a warped sort of approach to a materialistic touchstone. The insistence on the godlike quality of the leader is never quite carried out in the characterization. In fact, for this reader, most of the characters are unconvincing, overdrawn to represent symbols rather than people. This- for me- was true of The Fountainhead some 14 years ago. Then, too, the machinery of the story was compelling, fascinating; the philosophic content had something faintly phoney; the characters were two dimensional.... Atlas Shrugged holds a terrifying immediacy, if one can envision today's prosperity holding the seeds of tomorrow's decadence. Except in the isolated cases of unrealized potentials of invention, she has tapped few of the now-evident clues to our immediate mechanical future. One finds it difficult to gauge the time span here. The market? Curiosity will be high pressured by the promotion and publicity:- an unheard of advance to the author; a tremendous advertising appropriation; a spirited bidding for subsidiary rights; a predicted advance sale of 60,000 copies out of an initial 75,000 printing... The sheer size of the book — about 1150 pages — is a magnet for an astounding number of readers.... The story is a challenging one; the manner of the telling holds reader interest, despite the unnecessary length; there's enough of sex to provide its mead of shockers; and there is the odd allure of fantasy, a sort of science fiction appeal. And one can count, too, on a goodly number who will discuss the social philosophy with heated arguments, pro and con — plus the intellectual snob appeal of those who like to feel they've plumbed a new code of ethics. It is not a book that leaves one unscathed.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1957

ISBN: 0452011876

Page Count: 1168

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1957

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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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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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DEACON KING KONG

The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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