Another thoughtful, if odd and caustic, story from one of Israel’s greatest contemporary writers.



Take my life. Take my life, please….

Dov Greenstein is on stage in Caesarea—Hello, is this microphone working?—or somewhere, at any rate, any of a hundred dusty Israeli towns, marking time before the spotlights in a tiny bar. “Looks like my agent fucked me again,” he says, and the audience laughs appreciatively. He throws out a few insults, a few jibes, and asks them, “Why are you dumbasses laughing? That joke was about you!” But he’s no Don Rickles, not Dovelah. He’s on the stage, it seems, to work out some personal issues and not a little bit of existential angst. To that end, he’s invited an old friend, Avishai Lazar, a former judge, to attend. Avishai, the narrator, has known Dov since childhood and summer camp, and he’s amazed at the amount of hurt the comedian has stowed away, the better to make jokes out of, perhaps, but enough to keep an army of psychiatrists busy. Besides, there’s some payback in the offing for some long-ago slight: “The sweetness of the revenge I am about to be subjected to,” Avishai thinks. Along the way, Grossman (To the End of the Land, 2010, etc.) unveils scenes from Israeli history and society: through Dov, he jokes that one woman’s hairdo was designed by the same engineer who built the nuclear plant at Dimona, and it’s not long before the Holocaust is dusted off and worked into the bit. The comic patter becomes ever more fraught, ever less funny; as one audience member protests, “People come here to have a good time, it’s the weekend, you wanna clear your head, and this guy gives us Yom Kippur.” Yes, and not a little Freud, too. The book is an assault on the reader, a provocation and a challenge; Grossman takes great risks, but in the end there is reward in a kind of redemption— and in any event, thank the heavens, the bad jokes stop.

Another thoughtful, if odd and caustic, story from one of Israel’s greatest contemporary writers.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49397-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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