Humane and humorous. Rushdie is in top form, serving up a fine piece of literary satire.



A modern Don Quixote lands in Trumpian America and finds plenty of windmills to tilt at.

Mix Rushdie’s last novel, The Golden House (2017), with his 1990 fable, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and you get something approaching this delightful confection. An aging salesman loses his job as a pharmaceutical rep, fired, with regret, by his cousin and employer. The old man, who bears the name Ismail Smile, Smile itself being an Americanization of Ismail, is “a brown man in America longing for a brown woman.” He is a dreamer—and not without ambition. Borrowing from both opera and dim memories of Cervantes, he decides to call himself Quichotte, though fake news, the din of television, and “the Age of Anything-Can-Happen” and not dusty medieval romances have made him a little dotty. His Dulcinea, Salma R, exists on the other side of the TV screen, so off Quichotte quests in a well-worn Chevy, having acquired as if by magic a patient son named Sancho, who observes that Dad does everything just like it’s done on the tube and in stories: “So if the old Cruze is our Pequod then I guess Miss Salma R is the big fish and he, ‘Daddy,’ is my Ahab." By this point, Rushdie has complicated the yarn by attributing it to a hack writer, another Indian immigrant, named Sam DuChamp (read Sam the Sham), who has mixed into the Quixote story lashings of Moby-Dick, Ismail for Ishmael, and the Pinocchio of both Collodi and Disney (“You can call me Jiminy if you want,” says an Italian-speaking cricket to Sancho along the way), to say nothing of the America of Fentanyl, hypercapitalism, and pop culture and the yearning for fame. It’s a splendid mess that, in the end, becomes a meditation on storytelling, memory, truth, and other hallmarks of a disappearing civilization: “What vanishes when everything vanishes," Rushdie writes, achingly, “not only everything, but the memory of everything.”

Humane and humorous. Rushdie is in top form, serving up a fine piece of literary satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-13298-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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