PARIS TRANCE

English music- and literary-critic Dyer (Out of Sheer Rage, 1998, etc.) offers his first novel—a disappointing improvisation on the Parisian themes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Not so many years ago, at the age of 26, Luke Barnes moved from London to Paris to write “a book based on his experiences of living.” In Paris, Luke goes to a lot of movies (especially action thrillers and POW films) and eventually finds work at the Garnier Warehouse, where he meets narrator Alex (also English). Luke and Alex become great friends right away and are soon spending all their free time together. Eventually, Luke falls in love with Nicole, who’s from Belgrade—they meet on the street—and the two move in together. Not long thereafter, Alex begins dating Sahra, an American interpreter of Libyan descent, and the four of them become constant companions, taking Christmas and summer vacations together and hanging out over the course of long evenings of food and conversation (—That’s how it was at that time: no evening was complete unless everyone had their say about Cassavetes, his directorial style, his limitations, his influence—). But this isn—t exactly Jules and Jim: Despite all his talk of art, Luke writes next to nothing and comes nowhere near completing the novel he had come to Paris to begin. After a time, he leaves Paris (and Nicole) altogether and wanders for some years in America and Mexico. Much later, Alex (by now happily married and a father) sees Luke once more in England, but it can never be the same again: “What good does it do anyone, knowing that they once sat with friends in a car and called out the names of cinemas and films, that they ate lunch in a town whose name they have forgotten? Pointless to a fault, pock-marked with clichés about expatriates and la vie bohéme: a chronicle of squandered youth that would have seemed old-hat 50 years ago.

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-22981-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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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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