Reminiscent of a half-century–old ancestor, Vassilis Vassilikos’ 1966 novel Z, in its sardonic protest of things as they are.

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THE PARTHENON BOMBER

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone: thus this slender but deeply charged novella concerning an unspeakable—but sadly imaginable—act of terrorism.

“He keeps to himself, we don’t see him often. He doesn’t socialize like everyone else and rarely speaks.” So, inevitably, says one of his neighbors after a 21-year-old Athenian known only as Ch.K. (“only his initials were released to the public”) blows up the crowning achievement of classical Greek architecture, the Parthenon. Ch.K.’s logic is impeccable, after a fashion: the building is so beautiful, so powerful a testament to a civilization superior to the Greek present, that it forces Athenians to cast their eyes downward at their grimy, dirty city, “and that puts us into a bad mood, because she’s unworthy of It, and no matter what we do, we will never become worthy of such a masterpiece.” One can read Ch.K. as a nihilistic heir of Albert Camus’ antihero Meursault, or one can see in Chrissopoulos’ plainspoken tale, told as a multipart procedural, an extended metaphor for the decline of Greece as a poor stepchild to the European Union, overrun by refugees and mired in apathy. Naturally, like Mohamed Atta and company, Ch.K. sees grandeur in his act of destruction, a dare turned into deed: if everything in Athens “looks evanescent,” as he proclaims, then how much more permanent a bomb crater will seem, something to shake the bourgeoisie to their core and rattle every window around. The state, naturally, has other ideas, and if some of the interviewees quietly agree that Athens truly did not live up to its wondrous past, that won’t stop a few things from happening, one of them the construction of a “New Parthenon” scheduled to go up in months rather than centuries.

Reminiscent of a half-century–old ancestor, Vassilis Vassilikos’ 1966 novel Z, in its sardonic protest of things as they are.

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59051-836-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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