Run-of-the-mill stories in an out-of-the-way location are still run-of-the-mill.



Forget your Brahmins and Buddhists. Here’s an India where the Qu’ran rules the day.

The California-based author’s debut collection of 11 stories is never stronger than in the title piece, where the strategy for depicting life in India at least has an excuse. That tough, foreign life is made clear by the very strategy of the narrative: a letter from an Indian woman, a budding writer, who believes James Dean either never died or has been reincarnated, and is living in India: it’s a crisp device for comparing Indian and American cultures. Apart from this, the strategies are thin and repetitive, and alienation and simulated tourism are the only themes at work, with little truly new resulting from them. In “House of Cards,” a Pakistani woman marries an American only to learn that her husband prefers men half his age, but will she have the courage to return home? A father’s extramarital affair in “Ramadan” approaches the ritual of the celebration with which it coincides, but why exactly have they been fasting all these years? The rhetoric of homelessness in India (in “A Change of Lights”) is similar to that in the US: “How would she survive another night without her booze? How would Bharati survive without food? What if even today the city trash bins had been scavenged before she could sift through them?” A man takes his beautiful daughter to the wicked city for one last trip to the movies (“Bombay Talkies”) before she heads off to an arranged marriage. And another wife in America (“Lost in the U.S.A.”) spends all day on a bus trying to get back to where she lives, but will she decide to keep her inadvertent adventure a message once she makes it “home?” Unfortunately, the narrative techniques here are mostly trite, and ethnic tags are thought to suffice in spots where, in literature, beauty and artfulness might otherwise reside.

Run-of-the-mill stories in an out-of-the-way location are still run-of-the-mill.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-87074-475-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Southern Methodist Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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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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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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