The two versions, though, are useful to students of Rand’s work—and there’s a dissertation waiting in her use of the stilted...

IDEAL

Atlas yawned.

Someone somewhere, an acolyte or junior editor, thought it was a good idea to pull up a novel that Rand, the late cult writer and Social Security recipient, had kept in a drawer—and kept there for good reason, having tried the story in both prose and drama forms and preferred the latter. The setup is one of those Death Takes a Holiday morality plays so beloved in the days before Ernest Hemingway taught writers how to be vigorous: a Hollywood star, wanted for murder and on the lam, decides to test the adoration of six fans who had written her adoring letters—and, being a Howard Roark in furs, finds them wanting. Penned one, “Do you wonder why I am writing all this to you? It is because when I look at you on the screen, I know what it is that I want of life.” Yes, but is it what Kay Gonda wants? No, and what Kay Gonda wants, Kay Gonda gets. Kay, natch, has reason to be disappointed: she kills with kindness, like a lioness thinning a herd, but one unappreciative lumpenprole (“Aw, shut yer old face!”) dares hint at the possibility of turning her in for the fat reward offered in light of her crime. (And was it a crime? Ah, dear reader….) One character is a socialist on the way to repentance, another a cynic, another a soul-saver: they’re not characters but types, in trademark Rand fashion—for Rand, though certainly no socialist, traded heavily in social-realist symbols. The play version is a touch more successful if only because it’s a touch less talky (says Kay, imperiously cutting to the chase: “You can throw me out, if you wish. You can call the police, if you prefer. Only do so now.”). Still, neither leaps from the page to scream in testimonial to the author’s genius.

The two versions, though, are useful to students of Rand’s work—and there’s a dissertation waiting in her use of the stilted possessive. Otherwise, a mere curio.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-451-47555-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: New American Library

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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