Odd, offbeat and strangely shimmering.

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A FLOATING LIFE

In Crawford’s world, boundaries, especially those between people, are semipermeable membranes with tenuous connections to reality.

At times, Crawford seems to be channeling Kafka or Borges, a feeling reinforced when, at a party his unnamed narrator engages a vaguely familiar woman in conversation. She informs her interlocutor that she’s written a letter to her husband, outlining his deficiencies and the hopelessness of their marriage. The narrator finally figures out whom he’s talking to—his wife. Equally dreamlike sequences emerge from this one. The couple decides to live in separate bedrooms in their apartment, but when this turns out to be unfeasible, the narrator goes to look for a new place to live. The real estate agent he talks to firmly rejects some of the narrator’s choices and eventually tells him he’d be happy in a small efficiency, but the building is being constructed under this apartment, deep in the ground, so in a surreal way, the apartment is actually a penthouse. One of the most important connections the narrator makes is to The Floating World, a weird and elusive shop where one can buy model ships, something the narrator starts to develop an intense interest in. The shop is located in a brownstone with no identifying marks, and its proprietor is a Dutchman who goes by the nautical name of Pecheur. Over time, the narrator and the shopkeeper become quite close, the latter taking on the narrator as an assistant. In addition to the death of Pecheur, the narrator ultimately must also confront his erectile dysfunction as well as the dilemma of waking up in an infirmary where he breastfeeds an infant, rather unusual since the narrator is a man.

Odd, offbeat and strangely shimmering.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61145-702-5

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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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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

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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

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