Oe has been afflicted, and blessed, with a great theme that’s entirely his own—and has made it the cornerstone of an...



Perhaps the best of several fictionalizations of life with his brain-damaged son Hikari, this moving 1986 novel (previously untranslated into English) by Japan’s 1994 Nobel laureate ranks with such triumphs as Oe’s The Silent Cry (1975) and Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness (1969).

The narrator is K., a middle-aged Tokyo writer whose understandably obsessive relationship with his adult son, born with a deformed head and thereafter subject to both irrational borderline-violent behavior and terrifying seizures, dovetails in his imagination with the consolations and clarifications found in the poems and paintings of William Blake, which K. has devoutly studied since his youth. Each chapter here is prefaced by a quotation from or allusion to Blake’s enormously rich oeuvre, and K.’s often discursive ruminations make telling connections between Blake’s themes and preoccupations and emotions stirred by the strange boy-man whom his parents and younger siblings continue to call “Eeyore.” For example, the subject of Eeyore’s dreams evokes references to Blake’s poetical treatment of the phenomenon of dreaming and his dreamlike paintings; Eeyore’s experiences with occupational therapy are counterpointed to Blake’s interpretation of the US Declaration of Independence. There’s much more: Eeyore’s panicky fear of death leads to memories of K.’s vigil for a former school friend dying of leukemia; teaching his son to swim brings K. into contact with athletic young men reminiscent of the paramilitary acolytes of Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima (who committed ritual suicide); and, most intriguingly, Eeyore’s inexplicable musical gift (Oe’s son is, against enormous odds, a successful composer), one of whose by-products is a highly praised collaboration between father and son. The result is a dazzlingly unconventional fiction, alive on every page with deeply considered ideas and restrained emotion, that’s capable of frequently reducing the reader to helpless (albeit grateful) tears.

Oe has been afflicted, and blessed, with a great theme that’s entirely his own—and has made it the cornerstone of an irresistibly compelling body of work.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8021-1710-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?