LOVE IN THE RUINS

A fanciful, suggestible, strafingly comic view of man and all his manifestations at a future point in time when "Death is winning. Life is losing." And in terms of most readers, a more palpable and accessible book than The Moviegoer or The Last Gentleman. What will be happening — what won't — in an America divided is seen from Mr. Percy's native Louisiana and more particularly a Howard Johnson's at the "southwest cusp of the interstate cloverleaf." On the one hand you have the liberals and Knotheads (the old Republican Party although very little is coming out of the "Tel-a-Viv Hilton on Pennsylvania Avenue") and on the other the divers miscreants who live in the swampy outback — black guerrillas, drugheads, Ku Kluxers, dropouts, communists, etc. All have dreadful physical complaints, suppurating from the soul and running in particular to and from the bowels — "the real enemy is within, don't you think?" Tom More, our Bad Catholic, also a genius and a widower and a cuckold and a psychiatrist has, like his colleagues, "a few problems of (his) own, little rancors and terrors and such." He is holed up at the Howard Johnson's with three women who love him too much, two more than he can handle. In fact Tom has been institutionalized; he also has invented a Lapsometer which can diagnose and treat the "perturbations" of the soul and he is seeking official funding for it before the melee which takes place on a not so glorious Fourth of July. At the close, Tom is seen cultivating his garden of collards in a slave quarters but like his famous ancestor he has learned that "All any man needs is time and desire and the sense of his own sovereignty. As Kingfish Huey Long used to say: every man a king." As will have been apparent, it is impossible to indicate the range of Walker Percy's septic but indulgently appealing satire with its fallout of ideas and phenomena and magnificently funny moments. It is to be read — and best read more than once.

Pub Date: May 17, 1971

ISBN: 0312243111

Page Count: 418

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1971

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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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