Meandering and sophomoric.

READ REVIEW

THE WEIGHT OF NOTHING

A tedious second outing from Gillis (Walter Falls, 2003), who drags us along to North Africa with two young American slackers, each of them running away from something.

Mark Twain or some such sage once said that when a man realizes his life has been worthless he either kills himself or travels: Bailey Finne and his pal Niles Kelly opt for the latter without really giving much consideration to the first. Both are deeply thwarted young men: Bailey is a talented pianist who goes through the motions of working on a doctorate in art history, while Niles is trying to get over the death of his one great love, Jeana (who died in an explosion that also killed his hated and domineering father). A sensitive and dreamy sort who dabbles in philosophy, Niles never possessed any of the ambition that made his father a rich man, and he gives away most of his large inheritance to devote himself to a private study of Albert Camus. Bailey is equally unmotivated and seems intent on dragging out his dissertation as long as possible without actually putting any work into it. Challenged by his professor to produce something or drop out, Bailey impulsively concocts a story that he’s been invited to visit a famously reclusive artist at his home in Algiers as part of his research. Niles thinks that’s a fine plan, and he convinces Bailey to go—and to take him along so that he can find the house where Camus was born. So the two set out for North Africa in search of an elderly American painter who may or may not be there, with about as much idea of what they’re doing on the road as they had before they left. In the course of their journey they manage to find the artist, figure out some stuff about Camus, and put a few things to rest.

Meandering and sophomoric.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2005

ISBN: 0-9724295-5-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Brook Street Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2004

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.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

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