Futuristic satire with a scattershot approach: Benard (Moghul Buffet, 1998) targets everything from goddess worship and...



In Benard's brave new world, feminists rule—and foolish romantic fantasies aren't allowed.

But why, then, did they hold such power once upon a time? To find out, Lisa, a young researcher in the Ministry of Thought, plows through reams of literature from a less enlightened but much more entertaining era. She's naïve enough to believe that state-sanctioned sexuality might actually be worthwhile. Or that, at least, is what the officials of the feminist government want her to believe. Yet Lisa can't deny the arousing effects of her research material—not that she'd admit it to her higher-ups. She does her best to ignore all those merely physical sensations, until she and her dedicated assistant Justin are recruited to infiltrate Harmony, a radical group dedicated to overthrowing the feminist ruling class. The two attend meetings on both sides of the ideological divide, becoming more confused than ever. Lisa sneaks out to an underground dance and hears, for the first time, dumb pickup lines, something utterly astonishing to a young woman who was 11 years old when the Revolution began. The sexually charged gyrations she witnesses alarm and excite her, and the female officials electronically monitoring her begin to fear for her sanity. The all-powerful state, however, has safeguards to protect itself: a hidden feature in the unremovable wristbands that all males must wear will keep them (those chest-beating dopes, unable to figure anything out on their own) well under control. Thus, Harmony and other cells of the counterrevolutionary movement are readily eliminated and life goes on as before. Justin, one of the rare good guys, gets a new medal or two, while Lisa is rewarded with another assistant and continues her oh-so-stimulating research for the good of all.

Futuristic satire with a scattershot approach: Benard (Moghul Buffet, 1998) targets everything from goddess worship and holistic healing to the self-righteous excesses of 1970s-style feminism, enlivening her somewhat cerebral style with plenty of erotic snippets.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-28178-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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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 modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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