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

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.

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