A collection whose individual pieces fascinate but whose overall effect feels diluted by repetition.

BABOON

Danish poet Aidt presents 15 short stories that glance at modern disconnectedness.

It takes some courage to open a book with a description of “an astonishing landscape,” but Aidt begins with this implicit boast, confident that her work can take readers to places they’ve never been. The characters in this “astonishing landscape” are a vacationing married couple with a child. As the story unfolds, secrets come out and an accident occurs, leading husband and wife into the ellipses of their relationship. The story—which recalls European art films like Rossellini’s Journey to Italy and Kiarostami’s Certified Copy—stuns. But the rest of the collection adopts the same elliptical style, and the result, as a whole, is fascinating, frustrating and cold. Some stories—like “Interruption,” in which a man deals with a strange woman who has inexplicably moved into his apartment, and “Wounds,” in which a visitor to a city stumbles reluctantly into a fraught friendship—are wondrous, with vast loneliness underlying each syllable. But other stories seem like mere sketches, captured moments whose blurred edges struggle to suggest something important in their absence. “This is so incredibly banal,” one character thinks, “and yet it’s so important.” Capturing the importance in banality is Aidt’s laudable aim here, and many of these stories demonstrate a poet’s interest in turning a moment over and looking at it from all sides. But lined up as these moments are, the resulting book becomes occasionally dull, with many stories turning to (or, some might say, devolving into) grotesque sexuality as a quick way to inject intrigue into the “banal.” Too bad—Aidt is a much better writer of short fiction than she often allows herself to be here.

A collection whose individual pieces fascinate but whose overall effect feels diluted by repetition.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-931883-38-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Two Lines Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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