Indeed. But apart from presenting an overstuffed selection of good work, Pushcart affords room for hope. Here’s looking...




The venerable literary annual turns 40, with no signs of slowing down.

Editor Henderson, whose brainchild the prize was, customarily includes a rather dour state of the publishing union address in his introductory remarks. Here, he invokes literary lion Leon Wieseltier, who lamented the “bacchanal of disruption” that has left in its wake the corpses of so many bookstores and record shops, “destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry.” Against this gloom, Henderson is unusually cheerful: he holds that the future is so bright for small-press types that they’ve got to wear shades, provided someone else buys them since there’s no money in the culture biz. The anthology speaks to that, its contributions coming from comparatively well-heeled venues like Paris Review and American Poetry Review but also from scruffy little magazines out on the fringes of the publishing world, if still mostly concentrated around the cultural centers of the Northeast. As ever, among what Henderson enumerates as “68 poems, stories, essays, and memoirs from 51 presses,” there are some remarkable standouts as well as a few pieces that don’t make a dent. Colum McCann’s story “Sh’khol” is a marvel of tragic compaction: within a hundred words, Irish parents adopt a Russian child with fetal alcohol syndrome, bubbling with happiness at the new arrival, and in the flash of seven years, divorce, the wife “living out west, her parents…gone, her task…doubled.” Amazingly, things get worse. Joanna Scott’s story “The Knowledge Gallery” is a smart, brooding piece of literary dystopia, though it’s good to know that in the Soylent Greeny future there are still doughnut holes. Among the heavy hitters, Joyce Carol Oates, bracketing Wieseltier, wistfully recalls the beginnings of her career, when literary writers such as Truman Capote and Katherine Anne Porter appeared in the pages of fashion magazines: “How improbable this seems to us, by contemporary standards!”

Indeed. But apart from presenting an overstuffed selection of good work, Pushcart affords room for hope. Here’s looking forward to many more editions.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-888889-79-6

Page Count: 650

Publisher: Pushcart

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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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.


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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