LEE

A first novel that follows an old man, a kind of Old Testament prophet full of books and anger at the age, as he wanders— sometimes violently—through the modern urban world and into his own past. Perdue writes convincingly and iconoclastically about a misanthrope who is frightening in his complete contempt for anyone who has not ``held on to their soul.'' Lee, who ``liked to pile up his books and lie in them,'' returns, at age 73, to his hometown, where he ``felt he was a stranger on shore while the town itself had taken ship and was bobbing out to sea.'' He's on a mission: ``The world was abounding in rumors of a Great One, a new doctrine just around the corner, and so little time for seeing it ushered in before he himself must needs depart.'' With the proceeds from the sale of his last 75 acres, he rents a room and tours the town, taken over by people of the ``new type.'' Lee ``now thought of himself as the unacknowledged prophet of the crumbling of the West.'' Influenced by his reading, he views late-20th-century life from the viewpoint of an alien: ``Everywhere, it seemed to him, the female principle was in the ascendant, from literature to men fretting over clothes....'' With a thick cane, he beats a boy almost to death, each blow ``on behalf of some great man the new age ignored.'' The story then quickly settles into a visionary journey and a series of encounters with ghosts both real and imagined—his Judy, long dead, appears to him at frequent intervals. When the cops appear at his lodgings, he moves to a tenement room and continues to brandish his cane like a Jehovah until he's finally captured—whereupon he escapes and makes his way to the forest, strips and waits for his death. While Lee's critique of modernity seems to be deadly serious, Perdue offers a marvelous black comedy that is sometimes as astringent as John Yount's Toots in Solitude. A promising debut.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-941423-39-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1991

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE

The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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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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