A second novel from Swan (after Carnival for the Gods, 1986), who's also published three collections: a multiple point-of-view extravaganza set in a small town in New Mexico on the occasion of the return of a Hollywood actress. Chloride, New Mexico, is a small dying town ``hanging there in the mountains, isolated, off the beaten track.'' Most local gossip concerns A.J ``Bird'' Peacock, a trickster figure and ``last fledgling of the local dynasty,'' and Roselle More, who made it in Hollywood but who, like the town, is fading. As a promotional gimmick, More's director, Bill Brodkey (``the air crackle[d] around the man''), decides to bring the actress home for the premiere of her new film. Quickly enough, she disappears, and Joan Gallant, a local look-alike, stands in as her double. The ensuing narrative moves from voice to voice: Joan's identity becomes problematical as she buys into her portrayal of More, reading the actress's journal but ``Afraid the mask would be ripped from her face....'' Other points of view include mayor Curry Gatlin; More's aging mentor, Jesse Biddeford; painter Lauren Collingwood; director Brodkey; and, of course, trickster Peacock. Swan uses her sundry characters and various subplots to meditate on the way acting creates selves, then weaves a vision quest into the tapestry as well as a town fire and an odd stalking game between Joan (as More) and Peacock, who finally prepares a ``surprise'' for the town, culminating in a shindig at his place: voices, ghosts, and the ``Wilderness,'' or the ``dance of illusion''—which includes a mock-play and a lot of thrashing about in an apocalyptic finish that turns comic and upbeat. Swan is no Garc°a M†rquez, but this Southwest-flavored concoction, mildly experimental, leads us through an entertaining mix of entangling alliances and intrigues.

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-8071-1706-4

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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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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