Journey is about growth and striving for enlightenment, not about having attained it—and these poems celebrate both the...

JOURNEY

NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, 1969-1999

A chronicle of Norris’s inner and outer travels through Minnesota and the Dakotas, and how her settling there inspired a realization that one frequently winds up where one ought to be. Yet even in the “vertical and bottomless” urban badlands where the “clouds roll over Manhattan the way the earth settles on the dead,” there is suggested the bleak horizon-to-horizon panorama of the real Badlands, where “everything has been purified by loneliness.” But these are neither abstract nor sere poems. They are rich in apt, concrete detail and prickling with bodily sensations. Everything throbs with the music of living. Ordinary objects become imbued with their owners’ personae. It is people, stranded between past and future without ever experiencing a single moment in the present, Norris warns in her “Evaporation Poems,” who “must be careful not to disappear.” Espousing a Christianity shorn of its comforts and often stripped to its essentials, she pays homage to the wisdom of the body. She does so with humor that is more street-smart than sentimental, advising newcomers to earth (in “Excerpts from the Angel Handbook”) that there are those “not content unless their teeth are full of feathers.” One’s passage through life involves negotiating one’s way through the body. The simultaneously sensual and deeply spiritual qualities of Norris’s verse bring to mind the once outdated notion of the body as a temple of the spirit.

Journey is about growth and striving for enlightenment, not about having attained it—and these poems celebrate both the physicality of the body and the spiritual qualities inherent in a simplified life.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8229-4137-6

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Univ. of Pittsburgh

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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