THE MAGICIAN OF LUBLIN

A NOVEL

The position of Yasha Mazur in nineteenth century Poland was doubly anomalous: as a prestidigitator, hypnotist, and tight rope performer, par excellence, he mingled with and was acclaimed by every level of society and at the same time consigned to the statusless ranks of the bohemian; as a half-Jew he suffered all the restrictions placed on non-Gentiles in that society without enjoying the spiritual security the ghetto provided observant Jews. Brilliant and magnetic, Yasha finds solace in the women who love him—his wife, his partner, a prostitute, and, finally, a cultured Christian widow. And then his solace turns into his purgatory as he allows his love for the widow to develop into a serious relationship which demands that he upset the balance of his life, abandon his other obligations, and go with her. Yasha's complex infidelities, the inevitable by-product of his search for inner coherence, lead to a suicide. Overpowered with guilt, Yasha abandons the art at which he excels, returns to his wife and the Jewish community, and walled up in an improvised cell, lives the repentant life of the hermit, a spiritual source of strength for his neighbors, who, still convinced of his magic properties, seek council from him. This well written novel represents a departure from the more familiar literature of Eastern European Jewry in that Yasha spans two societies, wrestling with the angels of both. He is a ghetto Jew, strongly influenced by the standards of that society, and yet he is a modern man, attached to order, form, and tradition by only the most casual links. Almost a parable, Yasha of Lublin will have intense sympathizers, primarily among Jewish readers.

Pub Date: May 1, 1960

ISBN: 0374532540

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Noonday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1960

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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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