Lackluster effort from a talented young author.

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MAN TIGER

Newly translated work by the author of Beauty Is a Wound (2015).

The story begins with the grisly murder of Anwar Sadat—not the Egyptian president assassinated in 1981 but, rather, a lazy and lascivious artist living in a small town on the Indian Ocean. The cause of death is no mystery: a young man named Margio is clearly guilty. What no one can figure out, though, is the boy’s motive. Nor can they explain why Margio dispatched Anwar Sadat by ripping out the man’s throat with his teeth. What nobody knows is that Margio wasn’t quite himself when he attacked Anwar Sadat; Margio was, instead, possessed by a white tiger. This is the second of Kurniawan’s novels to be published this year, and it shares a number of similarities with its predecessor. The first and most obvious is the porous boundary between the natural and the supernatural. Another is the way in which the author borrows formal elements from folklore and oral tradition. But, where Beauty Is a Wound is sprawling and disorderly, this novel is succinct and disciplined. This evolution in style doesn’t work to the book’s benefit, though. The narrator’s voice is gossipy and close to the action—often the case in folklore—but the characters are almost never allowed to speak for themselves. And, although the story begins in medias res, the bulk of the book is a retrospective account of events leading up to the murder. Both stylistic choices keep the reader from getting close to Margio, Anwar Sadat, and their tragically intertwined families. And Kurniawan’s commitment to economy means that potentially fascinating episodes—like Margio’s decision to join the circus in order to learn from the tiger tamers—are reduced to a sentence or two. The readers most likely to be disappointed are those intrigued by the paranormal creature promised by the title: tiger sightings are few and far between.

Lackluster effort from a talented young author.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 9781781688595

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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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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