An earnest but flawed short story collection.

READ REVIEW

TATVAN

A SHORT STORY COLLECTION

A debut collection of fabulistic short fiction that offers readers a series of bewildering landscapes.

This book of 15 short stories may disorient readers as it ushers them from one curious setting to the next. In “A Million Things,” for example, Filimowicz progresses through a somewhat academic disclaimer about memoirs, a childhood memory about going to see the pope and an imagined Greek myth of Dionysus’ brother, Dionysovich, the god of vodka. Readers do occasionally encounter lines that help illuminate the rest of the text, as in the title story (“[O]ur particular outpost was jettisoned into free undefined space, like some metaphorical billiard ball in a hypothetical science lesson, our coinage instantly without currency, our borders in dispute, our language unofficial.”). Overall, however, the text tends toward the self-conscious and heavy-handed. Sentences often convey ambience more than story or character, and it may be easy for readers to get lost in the stories’ peculiar, often unapproachable worlds. Stories often bleed into each other; “Apocalyptic Triptych” and “Back Roads,” for example, have a technologically enhanced, post-apocalyptic landscape in common, as well as a very similar voice and tone, which may make it difficult for readers to distinguish among their different characters and the particulars of their imaginary worlds. Some stories employ invented, undefined jargon without narrative explanation, and read like fanciful imaginings without context. However, the strongest story, “The Amarylis Sluys,” written in the voice of a widow describing her husband’s life aboard a freight vessel, possesses a perfectly understated plot, energetic character descriptions, and deft, robust prose in equal measure. With its aphorisms and air of myth, readers will easily recognize why it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. However, its bright light stands in contrast to the majority of the stories here.

An earnest but flawed short story collection. 

Pub Date: May 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-1490349367

Page Count: 206

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2013

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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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