An unpredictable, formally inventive collection of stories still leaves something wanting.

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OUR DEAD WORLD

The real and the unreal merge in this latest collection by a young Bolivian writer.

A young girl discovers that a schoolmate has died of an asthma attack. “The funeral is at seven,” her mother says, instructing Elsa, the family’s nanny/maid, to have the girl ready by then. “Elsa, I asked as she braided my hair, where do the dead go? The dead never go, she answered me, her mouth full of bobby pins.” At the funeral, the girl and her classmates gather before the coffin. Then, suddenly, “the hall, people, coffin, flowers, our own astonished bodies, everything levitated in a single iridescent shaft of light.” So ends “Alfredito,” the second story in Colanzi’s (Permanent Vacation, 2010) latest book. It’s a telling moment in what is anything but a conventional collection of stories. In “Cannibal,” a man waits for his drug-trafficking girlfriend in a Paris bar. In “Story with Bird,” a disgraced surgeon hides out on a country estate run by slave labor. In story after story, the everyday ends up merging, one way or another—by sloping gently or by veering suddenly—with the otherworldly or the absurd or the untethered or some combination of these. There is no way to predict what is coming. As soon as you’ve found a foothold in Colanzi’s world, her rules of engagement will suddenly shift. “Our Dead World” ends in a line of verse; neither that story nor “Story with Bird” ends with a period, never mind a complete sentence. “Family Portrait” shifts rapidly between various points of view. Colanzi is an original talent with an utterly unique vision. Still, this slim collection doesn’t entirely satisfy. Colanzi might strip the rug out from beneath your feet, but then she seems to falter. So what, you might wonder. What comes next? Maybe her next book will satisfy more fully.

An unpredictable, formally inventive collection of stories still leaves something wanting.

Pub Date: May 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-94315-0-113

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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