Rollicking, expertly observed, beautifully written. Any new book by Harrison is cause for joy, and having all the Brown Dog...

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BROWN DOG

Pity poor Brown Dog, the Everyman of the North Woods, whose luck would be nonexistent were it not bad. 

Still, Brown Dog’s countenance is as cheerful as Don Quixote’s was woeful. Harrison’s comic hero—and in some ways alter ego—is as quixotic as they come, depending on kind winds to blow him a little money, some booze and a bit of righteous loving. In this exercise in well-effected repackaging, Brown Dog’s tales are lifted from other Harrison collections (e.g., The Farmer’s Daughter, 2009, and The Summer He Didn’t Die, 2005) and gathered in a single volume, which is just right. When we first met Brown Dog, he was a barroom horndog generally taken for an Indian (though, at first, he’s not so sure of that: “Now I’m no more Indian than a keg of nails”) and able to wheedle a drink or two out of passing anthropologists for his trouble. He was also the haunted discoverer of the body of an unmistakably authentic Indian below the waters of Lake Superior, waters so cold that bodies do not bloat and float in them. That body will turn up from time to time as Brown Dog leaves the Upper Peninsula on sometimes-unwanted quests—to Los Angeles, for instance, to hunt down a bearskin that’s been stolen from him and to Canada, in the company of some Native rockers. But mostly he hangs around in the pines, always just barely a step ahead of the law and in trouble in every other way; when we leave him in the hitherto unpublished novella He Dog, he is a step away from being pounded by “a strapping woman” named Big Cheryl, who reckons that the experience might just do B.D. some good.

Rollicking, expertly observed, beautifully written. Any new book by Harrison is cause for joy, and having all the Brown Dog stories in one place is no exception.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2011-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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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