THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE SON

One of the most curious products of Mailer's perpetually surprising career, this gracefully written short novel chronicles the life of Jesus, as told by Himself long after his crucifixion and assumption into heaven. Making continual references to the four traditional gospels (whose authors are gently chided for their inaccuracies and exaggerations), Mailer's Jesus offers a generally plainspoken and sometimes plodding account of his youth and apprenticeship in Nazareth, his acceptance of the burden with which the voice of God charges him, his ministry and miracles, encounters with the Pharisees and conviction for blasphemy, and his death at Golgotha. There's real tension, and little glints of inventive power, in such episodes as Jesus's temptation by a suave Satan, and his exorcism of the giant Legion and destruction of the Gadarene swine. But many other passages (most flagrantly, the Sermon on the Mount) amount to no more than flat paraphrase. Occasional flashes of Mailer's pugnacious intellectual gamesmanship surge through in his characterization of a Jesus who devoutly recalls and recites the wisdom of the Old Testament (in one arresting sequence, his rescue of the woman taken in adultery is followed by his memory of the most sensual verses in the "Song of Solomon"), and in random vivid metaphor ("I could feel the love of God. . . like an animal of heavenly beauty. Its eyes glowed in my heart"). Yet the text is marred by anachronistic lapses in tone, and one waits in vain for fuller development of the God-vs.-Devil dialectic that elsewhere dominates Mailer's fiction (though it must be said that this novel's God explains Himself rather more than the biblical one ever did). Only Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate emerge as even perfunctorily characterized individuals; everyone and everything else is subordinated to the narrator's exploration of his mission and his nature. It's lucid, competent, to all appearances sincere—and thoroughly unexceptional.

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-45783-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1997

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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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