THE DIARY OF EMILY DICKINSON

A private diary kept by the poet at age 37 (March 1867-April 1868), with introduction and notes by its imaginary scholarly editor. Discovered in a wall of the Dickinson family house during renovations in 1915, the diary at last has fallen into the hands of its present editor, who presents it here for the light it casts on the private life of the great and enigmatic poet. And what light is that? Well, not really very much, it seems, other than that Emily Dickinson lived quietly with her family in Amherst, wrote her poetry unobtrusively, died unmarried, and became hugely famous only later. Fuller takes no liberties here of the adventuring or gothic sort, conjuring up no ghost, perversion, trauma, or previously unknown disaster to explain her subject's perplexing reclusiveness and preternatural modesty. Instead, this Emily Dickinson is skeptical and intelligent, obedient but observant as a daughter, intensely dedicated to the cultivation of her poetic gift—and not so much repressed as simply unlucky in the department of passion, her love for the somewhat older Judge Otis Phillips Lord, for example, being unfulfilled thanks to time's cruel snatching away of opportunity less than (although room for interpretation is allowed) to the repression of desire. A real-life and common-sense Emily Dickinson emerges, then, captivating not for the operatic whisperings of dark secrets, but for the quiet authenticity of voice, place, and time that Fuller deftly conjures up. Her own hand at Dickinsonian verse is considerable (25 ``new'' poems are included), and, except for occasional stumblings in diary entries too expository to be realistic (``It was in summer at our Commencement tea that I let my heart deceive me''), so is her gift for the finer sounds of prose (``When the Bible proclaims eternal life, I hear only the silent drop of Death''). Lovely in conception, words, character, detail—but extraordinarily motionless and still.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 1993

ISBN: 1-56279-048-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1993

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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