Amusing, but mainly for Russian history- and literature-lovers.




A new translation of stories by Zoschenko, a satirist who deftly took whacks at the Soviet regime before the hammer came down on such writing in the 1930s.

Zoschenko (1895–1958) was the perfect comic writer for a peculiar time in the history of Russia. In 1921, realizing that redistribution of wealth couldn’t happen without actual wealth to redistribute, Lenin launched his New Economic Policy (NEP), which promoted state-controlled capitalism. NEP was tangled up in contradictions—one of which being that it permitted a slew of satirical magazines that criticized the government, and Zoschenko ruled those roosts in his heyday . The stories are all brief—rarely more than a few pages long—and send up the perplexing new economic order with quick, simple jabs. In “Host Accountancy,” an accountant laments rising costs at a dinner party, then tallies up how much his guests cost him—prompting all of them to leave. In “Electrification,” the residents of a building finally get electrical wiring installed—only to realize the lights reveal their abject poverty. Zoschenko’s Soviet Russia is full of people living on top of one another in apartments (in “Crisis,” a man takes up residence in a bathroom), dealing with thievery (both from petty criminals and the “Nepmen,” or state-sponsored capitalists) and navigating Soviet bureaucracy (in “The Cross,” a man needs a pass both to enter and leave a building). Zoschenko was a populist writer—translator Hicks argues that he was one of the country’s most widely read authors of the ’20s—and, like most popular scribes, had a formula. Much like a stand-up comic, he’d introduce a familiar topic (say, long waiting lines), segue into a shaggy-dog story, then drive home the ironic twist in the final couple of paragraphs. Zoschenko’s shtick is obvious, but though these stories are primarily of historical interest, his humor occasionally survives eight decades and a communist regime.

Amusing, but mainly for Russian history- and literature-lovers.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2006

ISBN: 1-58567-631-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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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.


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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