Taken together, the stories make a worthy addition to the archive of great Russian writers of the 19th and 20th centuries,...

READ REVIEW

THE ELAGIN AFFAIR

AND OTHER STORIES

From Russia, with love (and unfulfilled yearning, crushing despair and profound heartache).

Bunin, now forgotten by all but a handful of specialists, won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1933. A successful and well-respected writer in Russia, he settled in Paris after the Revolution, where he maintained himself by writing about a culture that had virtually disappeared by the time he got to France. The six stories collected here were written between 1900 and 1944. All are set in either a fiercely cosmopolitan Moscow or a tenderly bucolic Russian countryside. A few, like the eponymous “The Elagin Affair” and “Mitya’s Love,” are long enough to count as novellas; others seem, in comparison, like sketches. Bunin’s greatest strength is his ability to focus intensely on the consciousness of a single character. His stories, packed with sensory information and grounded by long, clause-heavy descriptions, work to find the mysterious moment at which objective reality becomes part of the interior world. Some stories, like “Mitya’s Love,” spend paragraph after lavish paragraph on minute sensory experiences—the thick air of the country on a languorous afternoon, the sound of a woman’s laugh, the long wait for a short letter. But many of the stories promise a bigger payoff than they can deliver. Bunin’s prose is always stronger than the stories’ plots, which often seem to end rather abruptly, often by introducing a relatively clichéd and unsatisfying convention more indebted to melodrama than to the 19th-century realists he otherwise resembles.

Taken together, the stories make a worthy addition to the archive of great Russian writers of the 19th and 20th centuries, even if individually, their prose spills over the narrow confines of Bunin’s plots.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2005

ISBN: 1-56663-641-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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?

more