Not as well-developed as the later books, and mostly for completists. Still, it’s interesting to see hints of the masterly...

READ REVIEW

WIND/PINBALL

TWO NOVELS

Two linked early novels from the prolific Murakami (Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, 2014, etc.).

“I learned a lot of what I know about writing from Derek Hartfield,” writes Murakami’s alter ego, who has already warned us that “writing honestly is very difficult.” Hartfield is a Murakami invention, the image of an utterly obscure writer jumping off the Empire State Building carrying a picture of Adolf Hitler and an umbrella both oddly unsettling and portentous. Though these stories—two of the so-called Rat Trilogy—are more than 40 years old, marking the very beginning of Murakami’s career, they are full of trademark turns. One is the iron spring that lies hidden in the tatami-covered floor of even the most tranquil room: the narrator lies in bed, smoking, looking at the beautiful young woman lying next to him, and what grabs his attention, unpalatably and uncharitably, is the fact that her beach-won suntan has faded and “the white patches left by her swimsuit looked almost rotten.” Another is the untrustworthiness of the narrator—and everyone else, for that matter. Elsewhere, a naked girl pads to the kitchen to make a sandwich, returning with her “cheeks stuffed with bread” just in time to catch him in a lie—but just one lie—while, still elsewhere, a girl stirs her drink with one of her nine fingers and listens to the narrator expatiate on why it is that people die, bullshitting with gusto even as he describes dissecting a cow. And if the narrator is a Murakami alter ego, is the Rat the alter ego once removed? It’s a point to ponder. There’s a Beatles record on the turntable at all times, of course, offering the possibility of peace and love and unity, but then there’s that iron trap again….

Not as well-developed as the later books, and mostly for completists. Still, it’s interesting to see hints of the masterly novels to come in these slender, pessimistic tales.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-35212-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more