The author’s defiance of traditional storytelling is admirable and innovative even when it falters.


Postmodern Deconstruction Madhouse

Quinones’ (Starters, 2013, etc.) collection of short stories and essays features intellectual characters examining themselves and one another as well as film and literature analyses from the author himself.

There’s a stream-of-consciousness style blanketing this book, best exemplified in the first part of the two-part title story, listing 98 examples of what Quinones calls “the one sentence short story.” They’re seemingly random assertions or snippets, mostly humorous, such as, “We spend one seventh of our lives on Tuesdays.” But a similar style appears in the fiction, as well. In “The Fizz Notorio,” for example, Eve Patricia plays her lover’s answering-machine recording, which features pieces of innocuous phone conversations. Similarly, Rolando Carspidrain in “Rumor People” overhears nearby diners at a restaurant talking about their parents’ impending ends. But while the plots are minimal, the characters are profound. Eve, for one, debates her choice to be with a man twice her age, while in “Burn Series,” shiftless Kim Demando may have a more fascinating life than her more responsible sister Dixie. Notwithstanding, the most laudable tale is perhaps the most conventional: “The Exousia,” a quirky murder mystery told almost entirely through eyewitness accounts. Quinones provides neither the dead man’s name nor details of his death, and that’s the point: what readers learn about the victim becomes his legacy, regardless of whether any of it’s true. An essay on Macbeth (“Notes on MACBETH Posthumously Left Behind by an Undistinguished Scholar”) is a little uneven, beginning as an assessment of the original play before turning into a look at several cinematic interpretations, all with equal merit. The collection ends, rather appropriately, with the metafictional second part of the title story: film enthusiast Peter pines after Myla, who apparently has no interest in him. This narrative is offset by largely superfluous notes from the author citing references or inspirations, which comprise more than half the story. Occasional tangents, such as film or book reviews, don’t seem to have been adequately researched; for example, what Quinones refers to as the “J-horror [Japanese horror] film Shutter” is actually an American remake of a Thai movie.

The author’s defiance of traditional storytelling is admirable and innovative even when it falters.

Pub Date: April 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4917-9183-7

Page Count: 138

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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 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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