A splendid though demanding entertainment, playful and pensive at once and beautifully written throughout.



Following on his novel The Invented Part (2017), avant-garde Argentinian writer Frésan looks into the world of dreams and finds a rich trove for interpretation.

Early on, Frésan introduces us to a writer who hasn’t written for so long that he’s no longer really a writer at all, and “to be an exwriter isn’t just to not be a writer anymore, it is, in a way, to never have been one.” The books remain, sure, but now all he has to sell are his dreams. The dream world is a place of “experiments gone awry,” a place where Bono can dream up a Roy Orbison song that never existed and have Orbison show up at his door to claim it, a place visited by shape-shifters such as one Stella D’Or, who might be “an intellectual rocker,” or a street fighter who destroys the neon lights that get in the way of a good night’s sleep, or a monster who troubles one’s dreams. Themes appear, disappear, reappear; one is insomnia, which is not the subject of a book interpreting it “because there are no two insomniacs alike or systematizable.” Yet it is in lack of dreams that reason produces its true monsters. The mysterious character from The Invented Part named IKEA returns to take part in the proceedings, as do Frésan-ian touchstones like Sigmund Freud and Vladimir Nabokov, the latter of whom “had a more than interesting relationship with the insomnia that pursued him and caught him and made him suffer throughout his entire life.“ And, of course, John Lennon, Emily Brontë, Bob Dylan, and countless other figures from cultural history roam in and out of the oneiric night along with fictional characters such as the aptly named Penelope, who does write, weaving stories about ascending Mount Karma, Alfred Hitchcock, and the Talking Heads, waking up in a start to do so, “because for Penelope, to write is the only thing left for her to write.”

A splendid though demanding entertainment, playful and pensive at once and beautifully written throughout.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948830-05-8

Page Count: 552

Publisher: Open Letter

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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