CRAZY COCK

Early Henry Miller fighting the hydra of English. In the late 20's Miller was living in Greenwich Village, writing Crazy Cock and being housed and fed by his wife June. He kept revising Crazy Cock but later in Paris set it aside to write Tropic of Cancer—a wise choice, since the first three paragraphs of Cancer are worth Crazy Cock entire. Here is Miller at his moat swollen and surreal, with barely a hint of his comic genius and with the worst faults of Cancer now strung end to end. There are perhaps only two or three scenes in Crazy Cock that spring to their feet as storytelling. The rest is French dross: "Late one afternoon, as if electrified, he sprang out of bed...and began to write...The words rose up inside him like tombstones and danced without feet; he piled them up like an acropolis of flesh, rained on them with vengeful hate until they dangled like corpses slung from a lamppost. The eyes of his words were guitars and they were laced with black laces, and he put crazy hats on his words and under their laps table legs and napkins. And he had his words copulate with one another to bring forth empires, scarabs, holy water, the lice of dreams and dream of wounds." The plot is that one day June (called Hildred), who works as a waitress, brings home Vanya, a midwestern artist-waif who makes puppets and paints surreal figures on the apartment's walls and with whom Hildred forms a lesbian tie (the novel's first title was Lovely Lesbians). Miller, called Tony Bring, is soon fed up with Vanya, whom he treats as a retarded child. The rages and bad vibes among the three figures give the reader what action the novel has. Although the tie between the two women comes off rather warmly, Tony is a cold fish not even an author could love. Dull and amateurish despite the overrich boil of words.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0802132936

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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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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