For McMurtry fans, there’s some heat here, but little light.

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WHEN THE LIGHT GOES

Compared to the literary feasts McMurtry has previously delivered, this is barely a snack.

The publication of Duane’s Depressed (1999) billed that novel on its jacket as “the final volume of The Last Picture Show/Texasville story.” Not so fast. Duane’s back again in a slim, slapdash volume promoted as a sequel to Duane’s Depressed, though it seems like little more than a coda to that trilogy. Duane Moore is now 64, widowed and retired. He’s still depressed, or he’s depressed again. He has just returned from a trip to Egypt when he stops by the office where he no longer really works and discovers a new employee, a young woman in a see-through blouse who keeps jabbering about her nipples. Since sex is no longer much a part of Duane’s life, he can’t tell whether he’s aroused or disturbed, or simply obsessed. He discusses the new arrival to small-town Thalia with his lifelong friends Ruth Popper and Bobby Lee, who are still snapping at each other. He also makes the woman a focus of his ongoing therapy with his lesbian psychoanalyst, Dr. Honor Carmichael, after whom he has lusted (when lust was part of his emotional range). Dr. Carmichael tells him he knows nothing about sex, and that many men who have had long marriages know little more. Duane will ultimately find his libido lifted more than once (in graphic detail for a McMurtry novel), and his spirits will lift as well. Thalia has plainly changed—the fast-food industry has fallen to Sri Lankans, which also helps perk Duane’s appetite—and he must decide whether it’s time to leave Thalia, to change with it, or to follow the old ways into the grave (where his wife and much of his past resides). He also must deal with complications concerning his two married daughters, one of whom has decided to become a nun, while the other has discovered she’s a lesbian.

For McMurtry fans, there’s some heat here, but little light.

Pub Date: March 6, 2007

ISBN: 1-4165-3426-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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