Terrifically exciting and spiritually rich.



Intriguing, mini-sagas of samurai derring-do and nimble wit, with a distinctly Buddhist flavor.

Garbed in fabulous gear—“black-laced armor over a dark blue battle robe”—the 15th-century Japanese warrior monk Jomyo Meishu of Tutsui, in the blink of an eye, nails 20 men with his bow and arrow. A cunning chancellor ferrets out court conspiracies by infiltrating 300 teenagers, “the Rokuhara lord’s short-haired boys,” into the populace to spy on subversives. The wondrous champion dancer Gio, realizing that “we are mere sojourners in this life” turns her back on glamour and, retreating to a mountain sanctuary, spends the rest of her days reciting the name of the Buddha. Such are the facets of this jewel of a collection, compiling warrior tales, told by blind lute minstrels, that form the basis of No and Kabuki drama. Intended to laud and lament the courageous fallen, the adventure yarns are permeated often with an elegiac, wistful air, a resigned sense that “what flourishes must fade.” Fans of classic Asian literature, especially of the world’s first novel, Lady Murasaki’s The Tale of Genji, will recognize the fastidious attention to detail here—the cut of the clothes, the nuanced etiquette, the lyrical language—that contrasts these stories with their Western counterparts, either Homeric or Arthurian. What also distinguishes these tales is the poignant tension between the hero’s inspiring quest for glory and his ultimate realization—perhaps even more inspiring—that any transitory glory is only another form of attachment: the chief adversary of Buddhist enlightenment. An excellent introduction, tracing the genre’s historical context, and a complete glossary of characters make this edition invaluable not only for aficionados of Japanese writing but for all students of myth.

Terrifically exciting and spiritually rich.

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-231-13802-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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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 strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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