MR. VERTIGO

Auster (Leviathan, 1992, etc.) departs from his usual cerebral fiction for this quick trip into Doctorow Land — a mytho-historical tale that invokes the American '20s, complete with glamorous gangsters and legendary sports stars. Writing in his anec-dotage, the septuagenarian Waiter Rawley recalls his moment of fame back in his youth when he toured the country as "Walter the Wonder Boy," a freckle-faced bumpkin who could walk through the air. Walter's levitations were no sham, but a carefully nurtured talent developed by the mysterious Master Yehudi, a Hungarian Jewish impresario who discovered Walter on the streets of St. Louis at age nine. "A pus-brained ragamuffin from honky-tonk row," the orphaned Walter eventually submits to Yehudi's grueling regimen. Yehudi's household on the Kansas prairie harbors other outcasts also: Mother Sue, a stout Sioux who once performed in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show; and Aesop, a precocious crippled black foundling admitted to Yale. Yehudi and Walter finally take their show on the road after their house is visited by the KKK, who lynch Mother Sue and Aesop. Walter's fame grows rapidly. "In the arms of the great ambient nothingness," he floats above ground, astounding audiences from coast to coast. His career is interrupted by a ghost from his past, a mean-spirited uncle who wants some of the loot. Then disaster strikes: The onset of puberty destroys his gift. Life after that is never the same. Yehudi shoots himself. Walter becomes a gangster in Chicago; develops a bizarre obsession with the great pitcher Dizzy Dean; and slowly fades away into alcoholic obscurity before recovering and writing this tale. Despite intimations of allegory and parable, Auster's dizzying trip through the century is not nearly as dimensional as Moon Palace, his previous escape from the metaphysical rigors of his shorter works into the picaresque. Disappointing.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0140231900

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more