What curmudgeon would argue?

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THE PARABLES OF JOSHUA

Once there was a parablist named Joshua and at times his fresh new parables were received with open minds by reviewers (Joshua in the Holy Land, 1992) as Joshua brought peace to the strife-torn Middle East. Yet in still later sheaves, as Joshua set about reforming sin-laden New York City, reviewers felt an encroaching blandness wash over them (Joshua and the City, 1995).

Clearly one cannot read all of Joshua’s parables at one sitting, particularly when one may not share Joshua’s views that God awaits all at journey’s end and will judge the righteous and the unrighteous and that heaven is a shining city to be sought under the guidance of the church while God counts (and recounts) votes for or against us with His mind as open as a left-wing liberal’s while perhaps weighing our interest in the social security of our offspring and the need for enforcing or cutting the death tax and measuring our decision to back or not back legal executions for capital offenses. Why not, a Republican might ask, embrace the wealthy just as warmly as we do the poor and spiritually disenfranchised? But Joshua’s latest parables fearlessly take on the hardhearted businessman, obsessed by the ever-rising value of his stocks, and in no way support Big Money. He takes on moviemakers focused on massacres. He dispenses wisdom about marriage in the parable in which Satan seduces the devoted wife, and in the parable of the ants shows how the peaceful and cooperative ant builds a healthy home life that husbands and wives should look to—though he fails to note the rages between rival ant colonies. To one synagogue he describes God as a Supreme Artist whose masterpiece includes the most far-flung matter in the Universe and whose Artistic Genius is not to be understood quickly, although He has a tender heart, witness our taste buds and eyes and ears for experiencing the ecstasy of His creation.

What curmudgeon would argue?

Pub Date: March 20, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-49511-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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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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