A wry, sardonic romp made even more vibrant by its various satires and absurdities.

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I'LL SELL YOU A DOG

A novel of retirement, regret, and revolution in Mexico City.

Teo, short for Teodoro, which may or may not be his real name, lives in an old, broken-down building where the cockroaches run rampant. Teo is approaching 80. Every day he drinks. He drinks either in the bar on the corner; with the greengrocer, Juliet, whom he calls Juliette; or in his room, with a Mormon missionary named Willem (whom he calls Villem) or with a young revolutionary named Mao, who may not be a revolutionary and may not be named Mao. Teo either keeps track of his drinks, or he loses count. “Maybe if you didn’t drink so much…” is a refrain he hears often. Teo had a long career as a taco seller in Mexico City, but before that he was an aspiring artist. Then he gave up his ambition to support his mother, who’d been abandoned by his father and began taking in stray dogs, to whom she bestowed names like Market and Eighty-Three, for the place and the year, respectively, she found them. Now Teo carries around a copy of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, from which he reads passages to telemarketers and anyone else who annoys him. He carries on an ever escalating battle with the “literary salon” that meets on the first floor of his building. When the salon kidnaps Teo’s Aesthetic Theory, he takes revenge on their bulky copies of In Search of Lost Time. Throughout this lark of a novel, there are many appearances by dogs, some of whom die, ignominiously, by strangling, some of whom are sold, illegally, as taco meat, and some of whom roam the streets in lonely, mangy packs. This is the third novel by Villalobos (Quesadillas, 2014, etc.), and it should help establish his reputation as a maniacally witty writer of satire and absurdity. He takes on Mexican history, literary theory, and the just-scraping-by lives of the 99 percent, all while telling a damn good story. He has a novelist’s eye for detail, a painter’s for image, and a poet’s for turn of phrase. Remember those cockroaches? They “take advantage” of the building’s elevator to ride “downstairs to visit their associates.”

A wry, sardonic romp made even more vibrant by its various satires and absurdities.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-9082-7674-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: & Other Stories

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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